Queen's professor named the Gray Chair in Particle Astrophysics

Queen's professor named the Gray Chair in Particle Astrophysics

January 28, 2014


By Anne Craig, Communications Officer

Following in world-renowned physicist Art McDonald’s footsteps doesn’t seem like an easy task, but Queen’s University professor Mark Chen is settling into his new role. Dr. Chen, who is the director of the SNO+ project (the upgrade of the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory), has been named the Gordon and Patricia Gray Chair in Particle Astrophysics.

Queen's professor Mark Chen examines a photo receptor from the SNO facility.

SNO+ builds on the first SNO project run at the underground site from 1999 to 2006, and will study the fundamental properties of neutrinos including whether their matter-antimatter nature could contribute to why matter is dominant in the Universe, and hence why we exist.

“It’s a true honour to follow in Art’s footsteps,” says Dr. Chen, who graduated from Queen’s in 1989 and returned to the physics department in 2000. “He inspires me and motivates me to keep pushing in this research area.”

Dr. Chen proposed, led the development, and secured over $16 million in funding for converting SNO into the new SNO+ experiment.  SNO+, after completion, will have improved sensitivity to neutrinos from the Sun and Earth and will search for double beta decay, a rare but important nuclear process.

“It’s exciting work and the chair enables me to continue to be a leader in defining the direction of particle astrophysics research,” says Dr. Chen.

“The Gray Chair has been of tremendous value to me in pursuing my research program at SNOLAB and I am very grateful for this,” says Dr. McDonald. “Dr. Chen is a very experienced professor who is leading the SNO+ project, with the potential to greatly expand our knowledge of neutrinos, the sun and the earth. I know that the Gray Chair will be valuable for him as he leads this important research program and provides excellent educational opportunities for our students.”