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McDonald and SNO team win Franklin Medal


Queen’s physicist Art McDonald and his team of scientific sleuths from the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory (SNO) have won another prestigious international award for their groundbreaking discoveries about the nature of matter and the structure of the universe.

This week at a gala ceremony in Philadelphia, Dr. McDonald will receive the 2007 Benjamin Franklin Medal in Physics, with co-winner Yoji Totsuka from the University of Tokyo, for “the discovery that neutrinos change flavour and have mass.” The Franklin Institute Awards Program honours scientists, innovators and entrepreneurs who have made extraordinary scientific achievements, benefited humanity, advanced science, launched new fields of inquiry and increased the understanding of the universe.

Past winners of these medals – which date back to 1824 – include Albert Einstein, Alexander Graham Bell, Marie and Pierre Curie, and Orville Wright. More than 100 Franklin Institute Laureates have gone on to receive Nobel Prizes.

“This is an outstanding international recognition for SNO Director Art McDonald and the whole SNO Project team,” says Vice-Principal (Research) Kerry Rowe. “The Franklin Institute Awards are among the world’s oldest and most prestigious comprehensive science awards, with laureates representing some of the most distinguished scientific achievements of the past 180 years.”

Dr. McDonald and his SNO team solved the 30-year-old puzzle of the “missing solar neutrinos” in their underground laboratory two kilometres below the surface of CVRD-INCO’s Creighton Mine in Sudbury, Ontario. Their discovery that neutrinos (sub-atomic particles considered the basic building blocks of the universe) change from one type to another on their journey to Earth from the Sun modifies the long-held Standard Model of particle physics, and was designated as one of the most important scientific breakthroughs in the world in 2001 by the journal Science.

In 2006 the SNO team members were the first recipients of the John C. Polanyi Award for outstanding scientific achievement. Dr. McDonald is the Gordon and Patricia Gray Chair in Particle Astrophysics at Queen’s, an Officer of the Order of Canada, and past recipient of the Gerhard Herzberg Gold Medal from NSERC Canada, the Tom W. Bonner Prize in Nuclear Physics from the American Physical Society, and the Bruno Pontecorvo Prize from Russia.

The SNO team includes more than 150 scientists from Queen’s, Carleton, Laurentian, Louisiana State, MIT and Oxford Universities; the Universities of Guelph, British Columbia , Pennsylvania, Washington and Texas; TRIIUMF, Berkeley, Los Alamos and Brookhaven National Laboratories and LIP, Lisbon.

“I am honored to accept the Franklin Medal for the scientific results obtained by our SNO team,” says Dr. McDonald. “This has been a tremendous collaborative effort over many years. Our success has arisen from the combined talents and hard work of many colleagues and from the tremendous support that we have received from our many international partners.”

Events surrounding the Franklin Institute Awards this week include seminars, lectures by the nine recipients, interactive demonstrations and educational programs for Philadelphia area students. The Franklin medals will be presented on Thursday April 26.

Many of the Canadian SNO scientists are involved in the development of the new SNOLAB international underground science laboratory, expanding the existing SNO research laboratory 2 km underground in INCO’s Creighton mine near Sudbury, Ontario. This new laboratory will provide opportunities for very sensitive future measurements of Dark Matter particles thought to make up about 25 per cent of the Universe, as well as other frontier measurements of neutrino properties made possible by eliminating almost all sources of radioactive background.


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