Carleton University’s David Sinclair, distinguished research professor in the Department of Physics, has been appointed as an Officer of the Order of Canada in recognition of his “exceptional contributions to the field of experimental sub-atomic physics and for his leadership as a founding director of the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory (SNO) project.”
“This award is a great honour for me and I am proud to have this work recognized as a contribution to Canada,” says Sinclair. “In this field, no one works alone and my work could not have been successfully carried out without a wonderful team and without the strong support of Carleton University.”
The project began for Sinclair in the mid-1980s when he opted to work on a feasibility study for the underground neutrino experiment, SNO, in Sudbury, Ont., instead of taking his intended sabbatical in Australia. Construction began in 1990 and, once complete, SNO brought together about 100 scientists to study the elusive neutrino particle and explore the origins of the universe.
“This particle is far more abundant in the universe than the protons and electrons we normally study in science, but much less is known about it because of its elusive nature,” says Sinclair. “If 100 billion neutrinos strike the Earth, all but one will travel through – not noticing the Earth is there.
“The results we obtained have led to a major change in the directions of basic physics.”
The groundbreaking work of the SNO project contributed to 2015 Nobel Prize in Physics won by the SNO director and Queen’s physicist Art MacDonald, which he shares with physicist Takaaki Kajita. Sinclair was MacDonald’s deputy director.
Once the SNO project concluded its innovative research, Sinclair envisioned a new purpose for the institute.
“I proposed the expansion of our facility to form a major scientific laboratory called SNOLAB. Two kilometres below ground, where further studies of basic science can be performed – well shielded from the cosmic ray backgrounds,” says Sinclair. “This is now a world-leading facility for this science.”
Today, SNOLAB houses particle physics experiments such as Prof. Mark Boulay’s DEAP -3600 project, among other innovative scientific endeavours.
Sinclair’s scientific contributions have been recognized by the Royal Society of Canada, where is a Fellow.
The Order of Canada, one of the country’s highest civilian honours, was established in 1967 to recognize outstanding achievement, dedication to the community and service to the nation. Since its creation, close to 7,000 people have been invested into the Order, including at least 18 from Carleton.