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News and events


  • UVic physicist shares in $3 million Breakthrough Prize - November 2014

    Stars shone in more ways than one for UVic physicist, Sebastien Fabbro, this November.

    Fabbro is part of the Supernova Cosmology Project Team, which together with the High-Z Supernova Search Team, won a $3 million Breakthrough Team Prize in Fundamental Physics this November. The teams were recognized for their 1998 discovery of the accelerating expansion of the universe and dark energy.

    In 1998 Fabbro was a graduate student, studying supernovae (stellar explosions) with the Supernova Cosmology Project Team. Their discovery of dark energy - the force driving the universe expansion - fundamentally changed how we describe the universe and has profound implications both at the largest and smallest scales of physics.

    “We know almost nothing about dark energy and it composes more than 70% of the energy in our universe,” says Fabbro. “It could be an intrinsic property of space, a new dynamic fundamental field, a modification of gravitational theory, or even a manifestation of new physics.”

    Founded by internet gurus Sergey Brin, Jack Ma, Yuri Milner, and Mark Zuckerberg, the Breakthrough Prizes were established in 2012 to celebrate scientists and generate excitement about the pursuit of science as a career. They were handed out a celebrity-studded Gala on November 9, hosted by Seth MacFarlane, and featuring Kate Beckinsale, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Cameron Diaz as presenters.

    The Breakthrough Prize is not the first time the two teams have been celebrated for their accomplishments. Principal Investigators for the two teams also shared the 2011 Nobel Prize in Physics for the 1998 discovery. The two teams will share the $3 million equally, dividing $1.5 million among team members (see list below).

    The Supernova Cosmology Project Team Breakthrough Prize winners: Greg Aldering, Brian J. Boyle, Patricia G. Castro, Warrick J. Couch, Susana Deustua, Richard S. Ellis, Sebastien Fabbro, Alexei V. Filippenko, Andrew S. Fruchter, Ariel Goobar, Donald E. Groom, Isobel M. Hook, Mike Irwin, Alex G. Kim, Matthew Y. Kim, Robert A. Knop, Julia C. Lee, Chris Lidman, Thomas Matheson, Richard G. McMahon, Richard Muller, Heidi J. M. Newberg, Peter Nugent, Nelson J. Nunes, Reynald Pain, Nino Panagia, Carl R. Pennypacker, Robert Quimby, Pilar Ruiz-Lapuente, Bradley E. Schaefer and Nicholas Walton.

    The High-Z Supernova Search Team Breakthrough Prize winners: Peter Challis, Alejandro Clocchiatti, Alan Diercks, Alexei V. Filippenko, Peter M. Garnavich, Ron L. Gilliland, Craig J. Hogan, Saurabh Jha, Robert P. Kirshner, Bruno Leibundgut, Mark M. Phillips, David Reiss, R. Chris Smith, Jason Spyromilio, Christopher Stubbs, Nicholas B. Suntzeff and John Tonry.

  • Cafe Scientifique: The Chemistry and Biology of Beer

    Café Scientifique is an informal series of talks designed to engage the public in scientific research happening at the University of Victoria. Sponsored by the Faculty of Science, the talks are delivered by UVic researchers and provide an opportunity for discussion around some of the most exciting topics in modern science.

    What: “The Chemistry and Biology of Beer,” by Dr. Jeremy Wullf (Department of Chemistry) and Dr. Peter Constabel (Department of Biology)
    When: Tuesday, December 8, 6:30 p.m.
    Where: Herman’s Jazz Club, 753 View Street

    Admission is free and everyone is welcome. Reservations are required. Reserve your spot and learn more.

  • CERN picks Italian physicicist Fabiola Gianotti as new head - November 2014

    Italian physicist Fabiola Gianotti, who won world attention in 2012 for her leadership role in the discovery of the "Higgs boson," has been chosen as the new head of CERN's Large Hadron Collider (LHC) research centre, as of 2016, making her the first woman nominated to lead a top global scientific institution in this field.

    Gianotti became project leader of the Atlas collaboration in 2009, helping to construct and operate a large detector, located on the LHC ring, to detect and record the products of the proton collisions.  The LHC and the ATLAS detector together form the most powerful microscope ever built, allowing scientists to explore space and time, and the fundamental laws of nature, to unprecedented levels. 

    VISPA scientists at UVic are founding members of the ATLAS Collaboration, and participated in the design and construction of the ATLAS detector.   Since 1992, the ATLAS project at UVic provides unique opportunities for the training of highly qualified personnel; many former UVic-ATLAS members now hold permanent positions in top institutions in Canada and abroad.  

    Read more about Gianotti's appointment

  • Astronomers Geoff Steeves & Jon Willis discuss comet landing - CTV News - November 2014

    Jon Willis and Geoffrey Steves (Physics & Astronomy) were interviewed for CTV's Thursday night news broadcast about the importance and fate of a washing-machine sized spacecraft which scientists recently landed on the surface of a comet 500 million kilometres from Earth.

    Watch the video 

  • Nobel-filled year for biochemistry grad - November 2014

    How many people can say they’ve rubbed shoulders with 37 Nobel laureates? For Michelle (Tonkin) Parker that amazing experience capped a remarkable academic career at UVic that culminates this month with a PhD in biochemistry.

    This June, Parker had the privilege of joining 600 aspiring young researchers from almost 80 countries taking part in the 2014 Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting on Physiology and Medicine in Germany.

    She and the other students—mainly master’s and PhD students—attended lectures, panel discussions and master classes with 37 Nobel laureates at the meeting, which is intended to promote dialogue among generations, cultures and nations.

    Read more

  • UVic Physicist leads creation of advanced rare isotope laboratory - October 2014

    University of Victoria physicist Dean Karlen leads the creation of ARIEL, a brand new particle physics laboratory, in Vancouver.

    At the heart of ARIEL – the Advanced Rare IsotopE Laboratory – is an electron linear accelerator and an underground beam tunnel that will advance Canada’s capabilities in particle and nuclear physics, materials science, and environmental remediation.

  • International study solves deep-sea puzzle - December, 2013

    The final piece of a deep-sea puzzle that has long fascinated scientists has been found, after a two-month research expedition in a part of the Pacific Ocean that resembles an underwater Grand Canyon.

    A team of international researchers on the ship JOIDES Resolution recovered primitive layered rocks that originated at least four kilometres beneath the seafloor in their expedition to the Hess Deep rift, about 900 kilometres west of the Galapagos Islands. It is the first time rock from that deep in the earth’s ocean crust has been retrieved, and required years of complex planning.

    The rock confirms and refines hypotheses about how the ocean crust forms, says Kathy Gillis, UVic’s associate dean of science. Gillis and Jonathan Snow, from the University of Houston, co-led the team of international scientists. Gillis is the lead author of an article on the expedition in Nature, the leading international science journal. (Note: the paper is lengthy and can take a moment or two to show.)

    The JOIDES Resolution is operated through the International Ocean Discovery Program (IODP), which is dedicated to advancing scientific understanding of the Earth through drilling, coring, and monitoring the sub-seafloor. Canadian participation in IODP is coordinated by the Canadian Consortium for Ocean Drilling (CCOD). The annual membership fee for Canadian participation in IODP is funded by a grant from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.  For more information, visit
  • Dylan Collins - Biochemistry and Microbiology - December, 2013
    We are very proud to announce that Dylan Collins is one of Canada's newest Rhodes Scholars.  Dylan, a biochemistry student, will study public health at Oxford University on an all-expenses-paid two-year post-graduate study student award. Congratulations, Dylan!  Read More
  • 2013 Nobel Prize in Physics - October, 2013

    TRIUMF, the national laboratory co-founded by UVic, UBC and SFU in the late '60s, announced today's news about the Nobel Prize in Physics awarded to Prof. Higgs and colleague. Adjunct professor Robert McPherson is Canada's ATLAS spokesperson, and has already been interviewed by TV.  Click here for details.  Read more.

  • Russ Robb - Physics and Astronomy - August, 2013

    Farewell to the Centre of the Universe

    The Times Colonist includes comment from Russell Robb, a senior physics and astronomy lab instructor, in its story about the closure of the popular educational arm of the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory. "It's sad and a real shame," Robb says.  Read more.
  • Stephen Johnston - Earth & Ocean Sciences - July, 2013
    Stephen T. Johnston was elected to the McGill Sports Hall of Fame as a member of the 1982 McGill Redman Soccer team. McGill’s 1982 Redmen soccer team – which captured the Canadian championship – headline a new cast of inductees selected for the McGill Sports Hall of Fame. The 1982 soccer Redmen posted a stellar 15-1-3 overall record en route to capturing both the Quebec league title and the national championship. They will be celebrating the 31st anniversary of their CIAU banner this fall.  Stephen was previously inducted as a member of the 1981 Redman soccer, which also captured the Canadian Championship, and is one of the few two time inductees into the McGill Sports Hall of Fame, and is one of a very select group of athletes who have won two Canadian soccer championships.
  • Dean Karlen - Physics & Astronomy - July, 2013

    UVic researchers are looking for antimatter

    Dean Karlen and this month's T2K news is featured on the front page of today's "Life" section in the Times Colonist. The international team is trying to determine why matter exists at all. The international project called T2K is being pursued by 400 physicists from 11 countries, and focuses on a little-understood particle called the neutrino. Read more.

  • Stephen Johnston - Earth and Ocean Sciences - July, 2013


    New GSA Fellows Elected by Council Society Fellowship is an honor bestowed on the best of our profession by election at the spring GSA Council meeting. GSA members are nominated by existing GSA Fellows in recognition of their distinguished contributions to the geosciences through such avenues as publications, applied research, teaching, administration of geological programs, contributing to the public awareness of geology, leadership of professional organizations, and taking on editorial, bibliographic, and library responsibilities. 

    GSA’s newly elected Fellows will be recognized at the 2013 GSA Annual Meeting Awards Ceremony on Monday, 28 Oct., at the Colorado Convention Center.

    Stephen T. Johnston (University of Victoria):
      Johnston is nominated for his provocative and innovative research, which has recognized a new class of mountain belts, as well as his sterling geo-citizenry as demonstrated by his ongoing commitment to professional organizations, editorial duties, outreach, and the education of his students.  Read more.
  • Colin Goldblatt - Earth & Ocean Sciences - July, 2013

    Runaway greenhouse effect could doom Earth sooner

    A new study by Colin Goldblatt is the most complete look at the runaway greenhouse effect in 25 years and indicates it may be easier than initially thought to trigger the effect on Earth. The study is published in Nature GeoscienceRead more.

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