Nobel laureate highlights groundbreaking research that continues in Sudbury
“My wife and I keep pinching ourselves to see if this is really happening,” McDonald said during a visit to Sudbury Thursday, only a week after he received his Nobel Prize in physics for the groundbreaking research he conducted through the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory.
McDonald and his team discovered through their experiments two kilometers underground, in Vale’s Creighton Mine, that subatomic particles called neutrinos have mass.
The discovery expanded humanity’s understanding of the universe, and of the solar fusion in the sun that creates many of the neutrinos that reach the Earth.
Before he accepted his Nobel medal, McDonald was also awarded the $3 million Breakthrough Prize in fundamental physics.
He said the event in California was treated like the Oscars, with Hollywood stars Russell Crowe, Hillary Swank and Kate Hudson handing out the awards.
He later sat down for dinner with the prize’s founders, and billionaires, Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, Sergey Brin, co-founder of Google, and Yuri Milner, a Russian venture capitalist and physicist.
“I’m hoping these awards, the Nobel Prize and the Breakthrough Prize, will inspire young people to consider science as a career,” McDonald said.
While in Sudbury he visited Science North where presented many of his findings to high school students from Sudbury and the surrounding area.
“That’s the next generation. It would be nice for students here and all around Canada to feel that anything is possible if they work hard and are creative,” he said.
With his newfound fame, McDonald said he has received offers to speak around the world, and added he hopes to take that responsibility seriously, and to make most of his position as a science communicator.
Thursday night he gave a free public lecture at Laurentian University, where he discussed the significance of the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory’s discoveries, the ongoing research at SNOLAB, and the whirlwind that has changed his life as a Nobel laureate.
“For my students to actually have the chance to meet a Nobel Prize winner – unbelievable,” said Heather Theijsmeijer, a high school science and math teacher at Manitoulin Secondary School who brought a small group of students to see McDonald’s speech at Science North Thursday afternoon.
Theijsmeijer said one important message for her students, was that world-leading science is done at SNOLAB.
If they want to pursue a career in the sciences, she said, they will have opportunities to conduct groundbreaking research in Sudbury.