Gilles Gerbier

Gilles Gerbier

Canada Excellence Research Chair in Astroparticle Physics

Queen's University


“Attracting Dr. Gerbier—one of the world’s leading particle astrophysics researchers—to Queen’s University offers tremendous benefits, not only for our scholarly community, but for all Canadians. His research into the mysteries of ‘dark matter’ will deepen our understanding of the universe’s vast complexities, while his work with colleagues at SNOLAB will strengthen international research ties and secure the reputations of both Queen’s and Canada as leaders in the field.”

― Steven Liss, vice-principal (research)
Queen's University

Biography

Gilles Gerbier is a world-renowned expert in astroparticle physics. He joined Queen’s University’s Department of Physics, Engineering Physics and Astronomy in 2014. Prior to his arrival at Queen’s, Gerbier was director of research at the French Atomic Energy Commission in Saclay, France.

A graduate of the renowned École Centrale Paris, he obtained his PhD from the Université Paris XI for his work at CERN (the European Organization for Nuclear Research) on neutrino interactions in bubble chambers. Following a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of California, Berkeley, Gerbier became a founding member and team leader of the Beijing-Paris-Rome-Saclay Collaboration, producing seminal work on the characterization of scintillators for dark matter searches. In 2005, he became team leader for the European EDELWEISS experiment—dedicated to the direct detection of dark matter particles with bolometric detectors—based at France’s Modane Underground Laboratory (LSM).

Gerbier has contributed greatly to the astroparticle community and has sat on many committees, including the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council's Subatomic Physics evaluation committee and the steering committee of the European Network for Astroparticle Physics. He has served as director of the LSM, as project manager of the large European network ILIAS (Integrated Large Infrastructures for Astroparticle Science), and as co‑ordinator of the France-China Underground Lab network.

Shedding Light on “Dark Matter”

Dark matter. This invisible substance has challenged researchers for decades. Since the 1930s, numerous astronomical and astrophysical observations and measurements have strongly hinted at the presence of a large mass of unseen matter in our universe.

Gilles Gerbier, Canada Excellence Research Chair in Particle Astrophysics, wants to illuminate some of the mysteries surrounding this enigmatic substance.

Most scientists now agree that “dark matter”—roughly six times greater than the total amount of known matter in the universe—likely consists of new elementary particles. Harmlessly crossing paths with normal matter most of the time, on rare occasions dark matter particles interact with individual atoms. This happens so infrequently and the resulting reaction is so weak that, in order to observe them, researchers need to go deep underground to avoid outside interference.

Based at Queen’s University’s SNOLAB—located two kilometers underground, and one of the world’s premier underground research facilities—Gerbier will pursue a research program focusing on two core goals: to strengthen Canada’s presence in an ambitious North-American-European joint partnership searching for low-mass dark matter particles, and to facilitate knowledge‑sharing and transfer of expertise between European and Canadian researchers.

Gerbier also aims to develop, build, operate and explore the industrial and technological applications of a unique gaseous spherical detector at SNOLAB. Once complete, it will be the first of its kind capable of detecting extremely tiny impacts from very light dark matter particles. A final aspect of the research program will be exploring the potential industrial applications offered by this new type technology.