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This Week in Research – Sudbury hosts XV International Conference on Topics in Astroparticle and Underground Physics (TAUP) 2017

Sudbury hosts XV International Conference on Topics in Astroparticle and Underground Physics (TAUP) 2017

On a rainy July morning, the Fraser Building foyer was busier than it has been since students left campus in April. Among the crowd waiting to get into the auditorium were a number of students sporting bright orange shirts, TAUP 2017 splashed across the front. Laurentian University played host to the XV International Conference on Topics in Astroparticle and Underground Physics from July 24-28. 350 delegates representing 31 countries descended on Sudbury, Ontario for the conference – the first time TAUP has been held in Canada.

The TAUP series occurs every two years, and provides an opportunity for scientists from around the world to connect and share updates in the fields of astroparticle and underground physics. The TAUP program covers the topics of cosmic rays, cosmology, dark matter, gravitational waves, labs and low background operations, neutrinos, new technologies in these areas, outreach, and underground labs.

The conference also provides an opportunity for collaborators to get together and discuss their experiments in person – a rare occurrence in a field where data from an experiment is analyzed by international teams with members at institutions all over the world. For example, the PICO collaboration includes researchers from institutions in Canada, Czechia, India, Mexico, Spain, and the USA in addition to six Laurentian scientists. At times, TAUP felt a bit like a reunion.

Edna Manitowabi, a Professor Emerita at Trent University’s Chanie Wenjack School for Indigenous Studies, opened the conference with a talk on Anishnaabe science teachings following a welcome from Pierre Zundel, incoming President of Laurentian University. Each day that week followed a familiar schedule: important plenary talks each morning, followed by topic-specific parallel sessions in the afternoons. In total delegates gave 27 plenary talks, presented 76 posters, and shared over 200 parallel session talks over five days.

Among the plenary talks were eight sharing results from neutrino and dark matter experiments. Attendees got to hear the first results from the DEAP-3600 collaboration, published only hours before the talk. Additionally, new results were reported from the PICO, GERDA, CUORE, and XENON-1T collaborations.

Delegates also got the chance to explore Sudbury during TAUP. The welcome reception on Monday evening was hosted at Science North. Ontario’s second largest science center opened after hours to welcome the delegates, giving physicists the chance to interact with beavers, turtles, and snakes, or try their hand at the K’NEX racetrack. There was also a liquid nitrogen ice cream station – not the way these physicists typically use cryogenic materials (although probably more delicious). Throughout the week, 175 delegates got to tour SNOLAB’s research facility located 2 km underground just outside of Sudbury (also home to the DEAP-3600, PICO, HALO, and SNO+ experiments, all of which have Laurentian researchers working on them).

Laurentian University also played host to some after-hours events. The student poster competition was held in Alumni Hall, and the public lecture on gravitational waves took place in the Fraser Auditorium. Dr. Peter Shawhan, a member of the LIGO collaboration, discussed what gravitational waves can tell us, LIGO’s past results, and the next generation of gravitational wave detectors. There was a great turnout from the Sudbury community, and some fantastic questions for Peter following the lecture.

Poster competition winners received their awards at the gala dinner Thursday evening at the Caruso Club. Nobel Laureates Dr. Art McDonald and Dr. Takaaki Kajita presented the winners with their certificates and prizes. The gala provided one last opportunity to socialize, enjoy a cold SNOLAB beer, and reflect on a week spent discussing the latest advances in astroparticle and underground physics.

Thanks to the work done by the local organizing committee and 40 student volunteers, as well as the enthusiasm of all 350 delegates, TAUP 2017 was a success. TAUP 2019 will be held in Toyama, Japan from September 9-13.