Long-time Compute Canada user and Queen’s professor wins Nobel Prize in Physics

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 “Our work leading to the Nobel Prize for the SNO experiment benefited greatly from the facilities of Compute Canada. We strongly endorse Compute Canada and wish to emphasize the importance of keeping their facilities at the cutting edge of computing technology for the analysis of data from the new SNOLAB underground laboratory and for extensive simulation work necessary for the design of future experiments.” -Dr. Arthur McDonald


Long-time Compute Canada user and Queen’s professor wins Nobel Prize in Physics

Queen’s University professor emeritus Arthur McDonald is the co-winner of the 2015 Nobel Prize in Physics, along with Takaaki Kajita of the University of Tokyo, for the discovery of neutrino oscillation.

A world-renowned expert in nuclear and particle physics, Dr. McDonald arrived at Queen’s in 1989 to head the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory (SNO) and lead an international team in the detection and analysis of neutrinos. He served as the director of SNO, later expanded into SNOLAB, a facility which provides an unparalleled experimental environment for students and scientists working to understand everything from dark matter and supernovae to the nature of the Big Bang.

“Our work leading to the Nobel Prize for the SNO experiment benefitted greatly from the facilities of Compute Canada,” says Dr. McDonald. “The data from the experiment is still archived at a Compute Canada site and we are proceeding with further analyses for broader physics results from the data. For the future experiments at SNOLAB, including ones in which I am personally involved (DEAP and SNO+), Compute Canada is absolutely essential. We are transporting our data to Compute Canada storage facilities for both of the experiments, and the high speed computing capabilities of these facilities is essential for the extraction of the physics results. High speed internet access also enables our international colleagues to access the data for physics analysis. We strongly endorse Compute Canada and wish to emphasize the importance of keeping their facilities at the cutting edge of computing technology for the analysis of data from the new SNOLAB underground laboratory and for extensive simulation work necessary for the design of future experiments.”

Over the years the SNO collaboration has relied on resources at Queen’s University’s High Performance Computing Virtual Lab (HPCVL) to store and analyze the vast amounts of data required for this type of work. HPVL is a consortia member of Compute Ontario and a regional partner of Compute Canada. Several years ago the full set of SNO data was transferred to HPCVL to act as a backup and accessible archive for ongoing analyses of the data. In speaking with Dr. McDonald some years ago, he relayed that “HPCVL has provided a critical evolution of computing power to meet our needs. We are continuing to analyze the SNO data with ever-increasing accuracy. HPCVL has allowed us to remain at the frontier of physics – and at the leading edge of discovery.”

“I am truly honoured to receive the Nobel Prize in physics,” Dr. McDonald says. “While I am a co-winner of the Nobel Prize, the honour really represents a culmination of the hard work and contributions of Canadian and international colleagues with whom I have collaborated with during my career.”

Building the DetectorSNOLAB is an advanced research facility located 2 km underground in an active nickel mine.  It is home to the SNO detector which was active from 1999 through 2006. The SNO experiment demonstrated that neutrinos from the sun are not disappearing on their way to earth and may be captured with a different identity when arriving at SNO. While new data are no longer being collected, the SNO collaboration continues to analyze the data gathered during that period.

The project has also fostered valuable collaborations with over a dozen institutions around the world and has provided educational opportunities for hundreds of students across a range of disciplines. The data collected over the years have been used in many ways to build new theories about our universe and new ideas for our world.

While Dr. McDonald was working at the SNO his Nobel Prize co-winner, Dr. Kajita, presented the discovery that neutrinos from the atmosphere switch between two identities on their way to the Super-Kamiokande detector in Japan. This change requires that neutrinos have mass, a discovery that changed “our understanding of the innermost workings of matter and can prove crucial to our view of the universe,” said the Nobel committee.

Dr. Daniel Woolf, Queen’s Principal and Vice-Chancellor, offered his “heartfelt congratulations to Dr. McDonald on this significant achievement. Dr. McDonald’s scientific contributions have advanced our understanding of the universe, and also set the path for new directions in the study of physics and astronomy. His innovative vision has made Canada a world-leader in the field of particle astrophysics and paved the way for fruitful international collaborations.”

Dr. Steven Liss, Queen’s Vice-Principal (Research), added his congratulations – “I am absolutely delighted at this worldwide recognition for the fundamental research undertaken by Dr. McDonald and the team at SNOLAB. There is a tremendous amount of pride and satisfaction as an institution that Queen’s has this moment to celebrate one of its finest in Arthur McDonald. It doesn’t get better than the Nobel Prize.”

 

 

 

 

 

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