Queen's University

Renowned physicist named as SNOLAB director

 
2009-01-12

World-renowned British physicist Nigel Smith has been appointed the new director of SNOLAB, the international underground research facility that evolved from the Queen's-led Sudbury Neutrino Observatory (SNO). SNOLAB scientists investigate the dark matter particles that make up our universe, in a laboratory two kilometres underground.

Nigel Smith

 

World-renowned British physicist Nigel Smith has been appointed the new director of SNOLAB, the international underground research facility that evolved from the Queen's-led Sudbury Neutrino Observatory (SNO). SNOLAB scientists investigate the dark matter particles that make up our universe, in a laboratory two kilometres underground.

Dr. Smith comes to SNOLAB from STFC Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, Oxfordshire, England where he is Deputy Divisional Head (Precision Weak Physics) and Group Leader (Dark Matter). He will replace Queen's Physics professor and Canada Research Chair in Particle Astrophysics Tony Noble, who has served as SNOLAB director for three years.

“Nigel Smith is an internationally respected physicist with direct experience not only in particle astrophysics research, but in detector design and in managing large projects,” says emeritus Queen's Physics professor Bill McLatchie, chair of the SNO Institute Board of Management. “His skill set meshes nicely with our needs, and his vision for SNOLAB resonates with our community.”

In his early research work, Dr. Smith studied ultra-high-energy gamma rays from astrophysical sources using extensive air-shower array telescopes in Harrogate, UK and at the South Pole. In 1987, as the sole operator of the telescope at the U.S. Amundsen-Scott station, he was the first Briton to successfully winter at the South Pole. Since 1992 Dr. Smith has been actively involved in the development and operation of underground detectors to search for the weakly interacting dark matter particles left over from the Big Bang, and thought to make up about 23 per cent of the universe.

As the world's deepest underground laboratory, SNOLAB has the lowest background from cosmic rays, providing an ideal location for measurements of rare processes that would otherwise be unobservable. Measurements are planned by a number of international collaborations that will seek dark matter particles left from the Big Bang, and search for a rare radioactive process called neutrino-less double beta decay that could help explain the development of matter in the early universe. Other experiments will measure neutrinos from the sun and the Earth, watch for supernovae in our galaxy, and measure local seismic activity.

The SNOLAB International Underground Science Facility is a consortium operated by the SNO Institute. Other Canadian participants include Laurentian, Carleton, University of Montreal, University of Guelph, University of Alberta, UBC, and TRIUMF laboratory.

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