UVic physicists share in $3 million Breakthrough Prize


- Erin King

A team of UVic researchers shared in one of the world’s most lucrative science awards this November.

The $3 million 2016 Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics was awarded to five international experiments, including more than 1,300 individual scientists, “for the fundamental discovery of neutrino oscillations, revealing a new frontier beyond, and possibly far beyond, the standard model of particle physics.” Eight current and former Victoria Subatomic Physics and Accelerator Research Centre (VISPA) members are among the laureates.     

The UVic researchers were awarded their part of the prize for their participation in the T2K neutrino experiment in Japan. Neutrinos, fundamental particles produced in nuclear reactions, can pass through solid matter making them very difficult to detect. In a deep underground research facility in Japan, researchers in the T2K experiment directly observed for the first time neutrinos changing from one type to another. Their discovery sets the stage for the study of differences in the neutrino oscillation process relative to their antiparticles (antineutrinos), and may help to elucidate how all the antimatter was eliminated from our universe.

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 at a celebrity-studded Gala on Nov. 8, hosted by Seth McFarlane.

The prize is shared with four other international experimental collaborations studying neutrino oscillation: The Daya Bay, KamLAND, Sudbury Neutrino Observatory, and Super-Kamiokande scientific collaborations. The T2K collaboration is named together with the K2K collaboration for its share of the prize. Dr. Nishikawa is the founding spokesperson of the T2K and K2K collaborations.

A story in the Globe and Mail is published here.

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Keywords: award, funding, research, physics, Victoria Subatomic Physics and Accelerator Research Centre

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