Posted 2:01 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2022

Arthur B. McDonald, 2015 Nobel Laureate

2015 physics award winner to speak at UW-La Crosse

The 2015 Nobel Laureate in Physics, Arthur B. McDonald, will give presentations at UW-La Crosse as part of the university’s Distinguished Lecture Series in Physics.

McDonald’s public lecture, “A Deeper Understanding of Our Universe from Far Underground,” is set for 5 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 17, in Skogen Auditorium A, 1400 Centennial Hall. The presentation is free and open to all.

McDonald’s lecture synopsis: By going deep underground and creating ultra-clean conditions it is possible to produce the lowest radioactivity laboratory in the world. There we can address very fundamental questions about our Universe: How does the Sun burn? What are the abundant dark matter particles in the spaces between the stars? What are the properties of neutrinos, elusive particles that are one of the fundamental building blocks of nature? How do these particles influence how our Universe evolves? Experiments addressing these questions are taking place at underground labs internationally and will be described.

McDonald’s physics seminar, “Searches for Dark Matter Direct Interactions and Neutrino-less Double Beta Decay,” begins at 3:20 p.m. Friday, Nov. 18, in Skogen Auditorium A, 1400 Centennial Hall. The seminar is free and open to all.

McDonald’s seminar synopsis: Ultra-clean, deep underground laboratories provide ideal conditions to search for Dark Matter in the form of Weakly Interacting Massive Particles (WIMPS) and for the very rare radioactive process called Neutrino-less Double Beta Decay (0νbb). Descriptions will be provided of the use of liquid argon for a very sensitive search for WIMPS in our Galaxy. Liquid argon has a valuable property that nuclear recoils from WIMPS would emit light over 200 times more quickly than betas or gammas, enabling significant discrimination against those backgrounds. A repurposing of the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory (SNO) detector as SNO+ to provide a sensitive search for 0νbb in 130Te will also be described. The motivation for these measurements in terms of fundamental physics and cosmology will be discussed.

McDonald was born in Sydney, Nova Scotia, Canada. He has bachelor’s and master’s degrees in physics from Dalhousie University and a doctorate from Caltech, as well as 15 honorary degrees. From 1969-1982, he was a research officer at AECL Chalk River Laboratories; from 1982-1989, professor at Princeton University; from 1989-2013, professor at Queen’s University, Kingston, Canada; from 2006-2013, Gray Chair in Particle Astrophysics; and from 2013-present, Gray Chair Emeritus.

Since 1989 McDonald has been director of the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory Scientific Collaboration. Among many awards, he is a Companion of the Order of Canada; co-recipient of the 2015 Nobel Prize in Physics and the 2007 Benjamin Franklin Medal; the 2016 Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics; and the 2013 Cocconi Prize of the European Physical Society with the SNO Collaboration. He is a member of the Royal Societies of Canada and the UK, Foreign Associate of the U.S. National Academy of Science, and a Fellow of the American Physical Society.

McDonald continues to be active in basic research in Neutrinos and Dark Matter. In 2020-21 he was the Canadian lead on a project that has delivered more than 7,000 low-cost ventilators for the COVID-19 pandemic.

The UWL Distinguished Lecture Series in Physics is funded by private gifts to the UWL Foundation and through support from the UWL Department of Physics and the College of Science and Health. The series annually brings to La Crosse a physicist whose significant accomplishments and communication skills can inspire and enrich the careers of students, faculty and the community.

The UWL Physics Department is one of the largest undergraduate physics programs in Wisconsin. The department has eight full-time faculty and offers a bachelor’s degree in physics with the options of emphases in applied physics, astronomy, computational physics and optics, as well as physics majors with business or secondary education concentrations.