With the announcement of Gilles Gerbier as the university’s new Canada Excellence Research Chair in Particle Astrophysics, Queen’s University has taken a significant step in the hunt for dark matter—that elusive ingredient comprising some 80 per cent of the universe’s mass.
Gerbier, who has moved to Queen’s from the French Atomic Energy Commission in Saclay, France, has an outstanding international reputation as a physicist, innovative researcher, and accomplished leader of large-scale astroparticle physics programs. His arrival galvanizes the already strong Queen’s program, and his extensive connections will pave the way for collaborations with European and Chinese research programs.
“This is a real coup for us,” says Steven Liss, vice-principal (Research) at Queen’s University. “Dr. Gerbier is not only a perfect match for the university’s research interests, he is an exceptional leader and mentor, and will be a catalyst for future world-leading collaborations.”
Dr. Gerbier is not only a perfect match for the university’s research interests, he is an exceptional leader and mentor, and will be a catalyst for future world-leading collaborations.
Gerbier will lead many of his team’s experiments at SNOLAB—an underground laboratory located two kilometres below the surface in the Vale Creighton Mine near Sudbury, Ontario, and specializing in neutrino and dark matter physics. The opportunity to have significant access to what Gerbier terms “the world’s premier facility for astroparticle physics” proved too good for him to pass up.
“I’m very excited to work at SNOLAB,” he says. “It is a unique site—the world’s deepest laboratory—and it is operated as a clean room. The technicians, engineers and scientists working there are highly skilled, and the resources, availability and equipment are second-to-none. Once I found out that CERC funding was in place for the chair at Queen’s, moving to Canada was a straightforward decision to make.”
“This appointment is wonderful for Queen’s and for Canada, and shows again that Canada is becoming a destination of choice for the world’s best researchers,” says Liss.
Gerbier will focus his research on the identification of dark matter, a mystery that has puzzled scientists for decades. According to the current hypothesis, dark matter has to exist to explain gravitational effects that appear to be the result of invisible mass. Planets and stars move inside galaxies, but not at the speed you would expect by taking into account known matter only. Something has to explain the discrepancy. Gerbier is on a mission to prove what it is.