McGill University’s physics department has a long history in the detection of subatomic particles: the first studies were conducted in the early days of the 20th century by Ernest Rutherford, the father of nuclear physics. He examined radioactive decays and was the first to distinguish alpha and beta particles. Today, the department has a varied research program with theoretical and experimental groups working on experiments around the world. The experimental groups aim at evolving our understanding of the universe with involvements in high-profile international experiments such as ATLAS, BELLE 2, nEXO, VERITAS, and CHIME.
The theoretical group is working to determine and constrain physics beyond the standard model, so that those findings can be used for further exploration. Additionally, they are looking for a theory that unifies dark matter and dark energy.
The McDonald Institute experimental group at McGill is part of the nEXO collaboration, which is aiming to determine the nature of the neutrino and investigate if neutrinos are in fact their own anti-particles. The McGill group is responsible for developing techniques to characterize photon (light) sensors for the nEXO detector. They are also working on techniques to extract and identify products of double beta decay within the nEXO detector media. This future upgrade of nEXO will increase the detector’s sensitivity and provide an unambiguous verification once a signal is observed.