Alex Wright



Professor Alex Wright


About me

Hi there! I am a Continuing Research Scientist with the Institute of Particle Physics and an Associate Professor in the Department of Physics, Engineering Physics, and Astronomy at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario. I carry out research in the area of experimental particle astrophysics, in which we investigate the properties of the fundamental particles that make up the Universe by studying particles that are naturally produced, as opposed to producing those particles in collisions at particle colliders. Many of the particles we detect are produced extra-terrestrially, in the Sun and beyond - hence the "astrophysics."

The processes that we observe or search for in particle astrophysics - neutrino interactions, rare nuclear decays, and interactions due to particles that potentially make up the galactic dark matter - occur very rarely. We therefore have to build very large detectors, sometimes many hundreds of tonnes, in order to expect a countable number of interactions. The processes that we are interested in are also low in energy and can be very difficult to distinguish from cosmic ray interactions and "regular" decays of the trace levels of radioisotopes that are found in most materials. In order to avoid these backgrounds we build our experiments deep underground, so that the rock overhead screens out most of the cosmic rays, and take great pains to construct the detectors from materials with extraordinarily low levels of intrinsic radioactivity and to keep them as clean as possible. We also try to develop detector technologies that maximize our ability to distinguish between signal and background.

The reward for all of that effort is the opportunity to learn more about the fundamental constituents of the Universe and the rules that govern their behavior.

Short Bio

My interest in particle astrophysics began during my undergraduate studies at Queen's University where I completed my undergraduate thesis using data from the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory (see Experiments for more information about the experiments I have worked on). I stayed at Queen's for my PhD, during which time I worked on data analysis from the final phase of the SNO experiment and carried out feasibility studies that helped lay the groundwork for the follow-on SNO+ experiment. My PhD advisor was Mark Chen.

After completing my degree, I moved to the particle astrophysics group at Princeton University where I worked as a Dicke Fellow with Frank Calaprice, Cristiano Galbiati, and Peter Meyers. While at Princeton I worked on the Borexino solar neutrino experiment and the DarkSide dark matter experiment.

After my postdoc I returned to Canada as a Research Scientist with the Institute of Particle Physics and an Assistant Professor at Queen's University. I am part of the large Queen's Particle Astrophysics Research Group.

Professor Alex Wright in his Queen's University lab
Professor Wright with a prototype of the DarkSide dark matter detector.



Institute of Particle Physics logo