Remembering the neutrino
April 16, 2018
On Monday, representatives from across the Queen’s community gathered to celebrate two new installations that will commemorate the Nobel Prize-winning research discoveries of the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory (SNO) scientific collaboration led by Dr. Art McDonald, Gordon and Patricia Gray Chair in Particle Astrophysics Emeritus in the Department of Physics, Engineering Physics, and Astronomy at Queen’s.
Dr. McDonald was the co-recipient of the 2015 Nobel Prize in Physics for his discovery of neutrino oscillations, a phenomenon which proved that neutrinos have mass. He shared the prize with Takaaki Kajita of the University of Tokyo, whose research made similar detections possible.
Neutrinos, which are sometimes referred to as the ‘building blocks of the universe’, are tiny subatomic particles with almost no mass and no charge. The SNO Collaboration’s discovery increased human understanding of these particles, which ultimately helps scientists understand how stars, galaxies, and the universe itself has evolved since the Big Bang.
To celebrate the discovery, the university has unveiled a monument between Ontario Hall and Grant Hall to share the fascinating story of the neutrino breakthrough with visitors to campus. This plinth is part of the Queen’s Remembers series, an initiative that commemorates those who have made significant and noteworthy contributions to Queen's University.
“Queen’s University has been wonderfully supportive of the SNO research work and continues to support strongly the ongoing work at the SNOLAB underground laboratory,” says Dr. McDonald. “Those of us who have worked on SNO are very appreciative of this commemoration of the important contributions of many Queen’s students, post-doctoral fellows, staff, and faculty that led to this scientific success.”
Additionally, a replica of Dr. McDonald’s Nobel Prize medal will be permanently displayed at the Agnes Etherington Art Centre. The display will be located in a busy hallway between the gallery and Etherington House, and will include details about the experiment.
“The research conducted by the incredible team at SNO, under the leadership of Dr. Art McDonald, has an impact that goes far beyond Queen’s University,” says Daniel Woolf, Principal and Vice-Chancellor. “The vision of those who started the collaboration, including Dr. George Ewan, Professor Emeritus of the Physics Department at Queen’s, and the late Dr. Herb Chen, and the dedication of all who have worked on it since, have helped Canada become a leader in the field of particle astrophysics. We are delighted to recognize and celebrate their achievement with these two inspirational displays.”
Previous Queen’s Remembers plinths have recognized the traditional inhabitants of the Kingston area—the Anishinaabe and the Haudenosaunee peoples—and the 5th Field Company, a group of soldiers primarily comprised of Queen’s students and faculty who served and gave their lives in both World Wars. To learn more about the Queen’s Remembers initiative, visit the Queen’s Encyclopedia.