The experimental subatomic physics program at the University of Alberta dates back to 1958, with the establishment of the Nuclear Research Centre and a focus on nuclear physics using its in-house Van de Graff particle accelerator. As research increasingly focused on higher-energy physics, the centre was renamed the Centre for Subatomic Research in 1992. Members of the centre were instrumental in designing and building parts of the ATLAS detector at CERN.
In 2006, the Centre for Particle Physics gained its current name, reflecting a further expansion of the research program to promote interaction and collaboration among researchers in nuclear, particle and astroparticle physics research.
Experimental groups at the University of Alberta are part of the international IceCube, PINGU, ATLAS, SNO+, DEAP, PICO and MoEDAL collaborations. These experiments are studying neutrino physics, Higgs and black hole physics, as well as searching for dark matter and magnetic monopoles. Of these, SNO+, DEAP, PICO, and IceCube are all McDonald Institute experiments. Theorists at the university work on developing precision models for the next generation of experiments searching for new physics.
The Centre for Particle Physics at the University of Alberta maintains a wealth of experimental facilities. The University of Alberta also supports an electronics shop and a well-equipped machine shop, including the large scale specialized machining facility that was used to precision machine the ATLAS endcap calorimeter and the DEAP-3600 acrylic vessel. The facilities include a radon free machining facility, a low background counting facility and cleanroom environments to support work on sensitive experiment components.
The Centre for Particle Physics is an institutional member of TRIUMF and SNOLAB, and spearheads CPP+, a national resource that contributes to approximately half the projects in the Canadian Institute of Particle Physics program.
With CFREF funding from the McDonald Institute, the University of Alberta has hired two new physics faculty, Dr. Marie-Cécile Piro and Dr. Juan Pablo Yáñez. Marie-Cécile is currently working on PICO and DEAP-3600, while Juan Pablo is part of the SNO+ and IceCube collaborations. In their positions, both new faculty members will be building their own research groups, further expanding the McDonald Institute network and providing opportunities to young astroparticle physics students.