Laurentian Scientists Celebrate $3-Million ‘Breakthrough Prize’ Awarded To Sudbury Neutrino Observatory Project

November 8, 2015 – The Sudbury Neutrino Observatory (SNO) Collaboration, represented by Queen’s University professor emeritus Arthur McDonald, have shared the 2016 Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics.


In particular, Laurentian wants to acknowledge Professor Doug Hallman.  With the steady expansion of Laurentian’s research in particle astrophysics, he and a total of 22 Laurentian faculty members, past graduate students and post-doctoral researchers are all among the recipients of this honour.


The Prize was presented by the Breakthrough Prize Foundation “for the fundamental discovery of neutrino oscillations, revealing a new frontier beyond, and possibly far beyond, the standard model of particle physics”. The $3-million prize is shared with four other international experimental collaborations studying neutrino oscillations: the Superkamiokande, Kamland, T2K/K2K and Daya Bay scientific collaborations.


The research at the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory, two kilometers underground in Vale’s Creighton mine near Sudbury, Ontario Canada demonstrated that neutrinos change their type – or flavour – as they travel to Earth from the Sun.  The finding proves that neutrinos have a mass greater than zero. The results also confirmed the theories of energy generation in the Sun with great accuracy.


Professor McDonald, SNO Project Director, stated: “Our collaboration members are very pleased to receive this testimony to the scientific significance of their work. Our findings are a result of many years of hard work starting in 1984 when our collaboration began with 16 members, led by co-spokesmen Professor George Ewan of Queen’s University and Professor Herb Chen of the University of California, Irvine who were joined in 1985 by Professor David Sinclair of Oxford University. Our international collaboration grew substantially and provided an exciting education for many young scientists over more than 20 years. Our full author list includes over 270 scientists sharing this prize.”


The award was presented at a ceremony at the NASA Ames Research Centre in Moffett Field, California. The ceremony, hosted by comedian Seth Macfarlane, was broadcast live in the U.S. on Sunday, November 8 on the National Geographic Channel, with a one-hour version of the broadcast scheduled for Fox on November 29, at 7 p.m. For more information see


Founded by Russian entrepreneur, venture capitalist and physicist Yuri Milner, The Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics recognizes individuals who have made profound contributions to human knowledge. It is open to all physicists — theoretical, mathematical and experimental — working on the deepest mysteries of the Universe. The prize is one of three awarded by the Breakthrough Foundation for “Outstanding contributions in Life Sciences, Fundamental Physics, and Mathematics.”


Along with Dr. Hallman, Professors Jacques Farine, Rizwan Haq, Christine Kraus and Clarence Virtue are the Laurentian faculty who have contributed to the SNO research.  “The good fortune to have worked on a project of fundamental importance, that we believed in passionately, with a terrific group of dedicated and talented physicists was its own reward.  This honour is really icing on the cake,” said Professor Virtue.  


“We are delighted to congratulate the Particle Astrophysics Research group at Laurentian on this latest honour,” said Laurentian University President and Vice-Chancellor Dominic Giroux. “Our SNOLAB scientists are truly expanding the boundaries of knowledge about our universe and its building blocks.”


Laurentian University was a founding institution in the SNO Collaboration. With the completion of SNO’s measurements in 2006, and analyses in the near future, the members of Laurentian’s Particle Astrophysics Group (numbering 37 researchers in 2015) continue their work in frontier physics at SNOLAB, with major responsibilities and leading roles in the SNO+, HALO, DEAP, PICO and EXO collaborations. The work of the SNO collaboration was also recognized recently with the awarding of the 2015 Nobel Prize in Physics to Professor McDonald.