Neutrinos are tiny, abundant particles of matter that pass unnoticed through us and almost always through the Earth, but the full extent of their role in the universe remains a mystery. Neutrinos may hold the key to fundamental questions about the nature of matter, exploding stars and cosmic evolution.
On Tuesday, Oct. 17, York University took a significant step to strengthen its involvement in the next great neutrino physics experiment. The experiment, which is being hosted by the United States and is currently under construction, will focus on deciphering the elusive properties of these ubiquitous particles.
The Faculty of Science at York University and the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab) announced an agreement to jointly appoint a research scientist who will participate in the Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment (DUNE). It is the first such agreement Fermilab has signed for the experiment with a university outside the United States, and York University is the only Canadian university currently involved in the international DUNE collaboration spanning 31 countries.
“This landmark agreement with Fermilab is a wonderful reflection of York’s and the Faculty of Science’s commitment to world-class, groundbreaking research,” said Rhonda Lenton, president and vice-chancellor of York University. “It will provide exciting opportunities for our researchers and students to make a global impact.”
“We are delighted to partner with Fermilab and to have York scientists involved in one of the most exciting and ambitious new ventures in the world of physics,” said Ray Jayawardhana, dean of the Faculty of Science and author of the popular science book Neutrino Hunters. “Neutrinos play a starring role from the subatomic realm to the cosmic scale, so pinning down their characteristics will help scientists address fundamental questions.”.
Nigel Lockyer, director of Fermilab, said “Fermilab is pleased that York U and Canada are joining the international community to build the world’s most ambitious neutrino detector and to measure the properties of this enigmatic particle.”
The newly recruited research scientist will be based in the Department of Physics and Astronomy in the Faculty of Science at York University, where scientists already collaborate on large, multi-national particle physics projects like the T2K neutrino experiment in Japan and the ATLAS and the ALPHA experiments at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Switzerland.
DUNE is expected to make transformative discoveries that will deepen scientific understanding of neutrinos and their role in the universe, the dynamics of the supernovae that produced the heavy elements necessary for life, and the possibility of proton decay.
The experiment involves more than 1,020 scientists and the excavation of 800,000 tons of rock to build the Long-Baseline Neutrino Facility (LBNF) required for this experiment. LBNF will comprise the world’s most intense neutrino beam and include two detectors installed at Fermilab near Chicago and 1,300 km away at the Sanford Underground Research Facility in Lead, South Dakota. Groundbreaking for the experiment took place last July, and prototype detectors are under construction at CERN.