SNO+ detector at SNOLAB

Photo by Dr. Mark Chen (Physics, Engineering Physics, and Astronomy), SNOLAB.

McDonald Institute receives $45.5M in federal support

Today, Budget 2024 was tabled in Parliament by the Honourable Chrystia Freeland, Canada’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance. Along with $734 million to support major research and innovation infrastructure in Canada, Budget 2024 pledges to provide $45.5 million over five years to the Arthur B. McDonald Canadian Astroparticle Physics Research Institute (McDonald Institute). Hosted at Queen’s, the McDonald Institute is the cross-Canada network for astroparticle physics researchers, uniting experimental, theoretical, and technical expertise within one organization.

"On behalf of the Queen’s and McDonald Institute communities, I’d like to thank the Government of Canada for this clear commitment to fundamental science," says Patrick Deane, Principal and Vice-Chancellor. "This ongoing support, coupled with investment from other public sources, will see the McDonald Institute and partners like SNOLAB accelerate the pursuit of next-generation, global-scale research that will advance our basic understanding of the building blocks of the Universe."

Astroparticle physics researchers are addressing some of the highest-priority questions in science today – from the nature of dark matter, which makes up 80 per cent of the matter in the Universe, to the characteristics of the nearly massless subatomic particles called neutrinos, to what we can learn from multi-messenger astronomy. These questions are generating intense international interest, and their answers require an orchestrated effort by multi-disciplinary researchers across Canada in collaboration with international partners.

As a world leader in this rapidly growing field, Canada has historically played a key role in advancing global priority research in physics, astronomy, and cosmology. Canada’s success is grounded in sustained commitments from its funding partners – who have supported the world-leading major research facility at the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory (now SNOLAB) as well as the academic excellence that has led to major international prizes, including the 2015 Nobel Prize in Physics and 2016 Breakthrough Prize for Queen’s Professor Emeritus Dr. Arthur McDonald, and his collaborators.

About the McDonald Institute

Since its inception in 2016, the McDonald Institute has provided leadership and coordination to the Canadian physics community. Based at Queen’s University, and originally supported by a $63.7 million investment from the Canada First Research Excellence Fund, the Institute is a growing network currently consisting of eleven partner universities (Queen’s, Carleton, McGill, Laurentian, Simon Fraser, Alberta, Toronto, British Columbia, Montréal, Sherbrooke, Victoria) and six research institutes (SNOLAB, Perimeter, CIFAR, CITA, Institute of Particle Physics, TRIUMF).

A family attending the IGnite event

IGnite, a free public lecture series hosted by the McDonald Institute, showcases stories of discovery from the Queen’s research community. Presentations are thoughtfully curated to be engaging and designed to appeal to high-school students, adults, and families alike.

"The McDonald Institute has helped to cement Canada’s leadership in physics on the global stage," says Dr. Arthur B. McDonald, Gray Chair Emeritus, Queen’s University, and 2015 Nobel Prize laureate in Physics.

Through national and international partnerships, the McDonald Institute has facilitated scientific initiatives and attracted new foreign investments to advance fundamental research. It has also hired fifteen new faculty whose careers are now sustained by eight Canadian universities, developed engineering and technical expertise across Canada, and launched educational programing that has made physics accessible to Canadians of all ages and backgrounds.

"This new investment is welcome and exciting," says Dr. Ken Clark, Professor of Physics and Associate Scientific Director of the McDonald Institute. "It will provide the scientific and technical expertise for Canada to develop and host next-generation, global-scale experiments, to secure further foreign investments in our research ecosystem, and to deliver on scientific breakthroughs."

"Headquartered at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, the institute builds on the legacy of Dr. McDonald’s 2015 Nobel Prize for his work on neutrino physics. These expert engineers, technicians, and scientists design, construct, and operate the experiments conducted in Canada’s underground and underwater research infrastructure, where research into dark matter and other mysterious particles thrives. This supports innovation in areas like clean technology and medical imaging, and educates and inspires the next wave of Canadian talent." 
– BUDGET 2024

Note: This article originally appeared in the Queen's Gazette.