Nobel prize awarded to Queen’s physics professor

by | Oct 6, 2015 | News

By Christine Tippett

Arthur McDonald, a professor emeritus at Queen’s University and director of Sudbury Neutrino Observatory, was awarded the Nobel prize for physics early Tuesday morning.

McDonald is sharing the prize with Takaaki Kajita of the University of Tokyo for “the discovery of neutrino oscillations, which show that neutrinos have mass,” according to a press release from the Nobel academy.

The academy said the discovery has changed our understanding of the innermost workings of matter and can prove crucial to our view of the universe.

“The discovery led to the far-reaching conclusion that neutrinos, which for a long time were considered massless, must have some mass, however small,” the Swedish based group said.

On Tuesday, McDonald said he received the phone call telling him he’d won the award shortly after 5 a.m. ET.

His first reaction upon hearing the news was to hug his wife, he said.

“It was very surprising but gratifying as well,” said McDonald.

The newly-minted Nobel laureate specializes in researching neutrinos coming from the sun.

He said it’s ironic that you have to go two kilometers underground in order to observe the sun.

“That’s not what you’d expect, that that’s the best place to look into the core of the sun, but lo and behold it is,” said McDonald.

McDonald received his Bachelor’s and Master’s in physics at Dalhousie University and his PhD in physics at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, Calif.

McDonald, 72, is a native of Sydney, N.S., and was made an Officer of the Order of Canada in 2006. He also was awarded the Order of Ontario in 2012.

Both McDonald and Kajita will split the prize amount of $8 million Swedish krona, or  approximately $1.3 million.

The Twitterverse was quick to send their congratulations to the Nobel prize winner.

Here is a breakdown of what McDonald, Kajita and their research groups have been working on.