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Arthur B. McDonald Fellowships

About the Scientist

Dr. Arthur B. McDonald was born in Sydney, Nova Scotia in 1943 and received his early education there. At age 17 he left Sydney to attend Dalhousie University in Halifax, where he graduated with a BSc (Honours) in 1964 and an MSc in physics in 1965. He then journeyed to the United States to complete a PhD in nuclear physics at the California Institute of Technology where he developed an interest in nuclear and astroparticle physics research. This brought him back to Canada in 1969 as a Research Officer at the Chalk River Nuclear Laboratories of Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. where he performed fundamental nuclear physics experiments with particle accelerators.

In 1982 Dr. McDonald became a full professor at Princeton University, but he returned during summer breaks for research at Chalk River. There he was involved in the initial discussions with scientists from Canada, the US and the UK leading to the formation of the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory (SNO) collaboration in 1984. The collaboration, led by co-spokespersons George Ewan of Canada and Herb Chen of the US, and later David Sinclair of the UK, worked to develop the design and seek funding.

In 1988 Professor McDonald was US co-spokesperson of SNO and spent a sabbatical year at Queen’s University working on the final design. In 1989 he accepted a faculty position at Queen’s and became the Director of the SNO project and Scientific Director of the SNO collaboration. In 1990 the project received international funding, and Professor McDonald led the team through final design, construction, commissioning, data collection and physics analysis. It was for his work and leadership, leading to “the discovery of neutrino oscillations, which shows that neutrinos have mass,” that Dr. McDonald was co-awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics in 2015.

Dr. McDonald has been a key mentor, coordinator and team builder in the Canadian and international science community by supervising and supporting the research of graduate students and postdoctoral fellows, and he has served on many national and international scientific advisory committees. He is a Companion of the Order of Canada, a Member of the Order of Ontario, a Fellow of the Royal Society of the UK and the Commonwealth, a Fellow of Royal Society of Canada, a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, a Foreign Associate of the US National Academy of Sciences and a Member of Canadian Science and Engineering Hall of Fame. His research has also led to numerous awards, including the Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics with the SNO collaboration, the Benjamin Franklin Medal in Physics (co-recipient), the Killam Prize in the Natural Sciences, the Bruno Pontecorvo Prize, the Gerhard Herzberg Canada Gold Medal for Science and Engineering and the European Physics Society HEP Division Giuseppe and Vanna Cocconi Prize.

The information in this backgrounder was largely drawn from the Nobel Prize in Physics 2015 Arthur B. McDonald Facts, the Queen’s University article “ A Nobel Prize in Physics for Arthur B. McDonald”   and Past Winner — 2003 Gerhard Herzberg Canada Gold Medal for Science and Engineering.