Physics Accomplishments in 2015

Thursday, February 4, 2016


Reporting back:  From the desk of our Vice-President (Research and International)
(reprinted from

For the month of February, I wanted to turn the spotlight on one of our most research-intensive departments on campus for the purposes of making all staff and faculty on campus aware of what a gem we have here at Carleton in our Department of Physics ( . While it has been considered a department that punches above its weight for over 40 years now, the past year was an exceptionally stellar year for the students, staff, faculty and researchers in the department.

Most ably led by Dr. Gerald Oakham and boasting a research complement of Particle Physicists (both Theoretical and Experimental) and Medical Physicists, the department won a number of accolades in 2015 that resonate both nationally and globally.

In March, Dr. Oakham and his team were the recipients of a Canada Foundation for Innovation award totaling more than $6 million — representing 40% of the total project funding — to upgrade the detectors for the exploration of new frontiers in high energy physics with the ATLAS project at CERN as it roars back to life ( .

This is a necessary upgrade given that we're now in what they call "the Higgs Era". As a notable aside, Carleton physicists had a hand in the discovery of the Higgs boson ( in 2012, which won a Nobel Prize in Physics in 2013. In 2014, one of those physicists, former Canada Research Chair in Particle PhysicsDr. Manuella Vincter ( , won a prestigious 2014 Killam Research Fellowship.

In June, Rowan Thomson, Canada Research Chair in Radiotherapy Physics was awarded an Early Researcher Award ( from the Province of Ontario to develop new and improved cancer treatments. She is not new to awards – in 2011 she was awarded a coveted Polanyi Prize.

Dr. Thomson works closely with Distinguished Research Professor Dr. David Rogers, Royal Society Fellow and former Canada Research Chair in Medical Physics. Dr. Rogers was also the 2012 recipient of the Gold Medal Award ( from the Canadian Organization of Medical Physicists, their highest award given.

Turning now to the Sudbury Neutrino Laboratory, known as SNOLAB ( , in October it was announced that the Nobel Prize for Physics would be bestowed on our SNOLAB colleague Art McDonald, who shares the Prize with Takaaki Kajita of Japan. Dr. McDonald visited us shortly after the announcement ( to celebrate with his longtime colleague Dr. David Sinclair and other Carleton researchers with whom he works on neutrino detection at SNOLAB.

But that wasn't it for SNOLAB or its Carleton researchers. In November it was announced as sharing the highly prestigious 2016 Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics ( for "the fundamental discovery of neutrino oscillations, revealing a new frontier beyond, and possibly far beyond, the standard model of particle physics."

I also want to highlight the impact of these awards and research projects on our students. They have an opportunity to learn from and work with world's leading physicists and engage in major international collaborations – a dream for any student.

What a banner year for Physics. Please join me in congratulating and celebrating everyone involved. We have much to be proud of.