Issue 15, Sept 23rd, 2020

I suppose the customary fall academic term "welcome back!" should be amended, as many of us continue to work remotely. So let me add: "welcome back . . . home?"

For those returning to laboratories, offices and classrooms in some way, please stay safe. Mask up, soap up, and keep the sanitizer handy! Our community has an opportunity to normalize these lifesaving behaviours and lessen the impact of a second pandemic wave.

Please let us know what you think of this month's newsletter. What would make it more useful or enjoyable to you? What do you like? Is there something missing? Send me a note at, and I'll randomly choose 10 respondents to receive some McDonald Institute SWAG! (leave your mailing address if you want it sent to you).

Before we dive in, I would like to acknowledge that the McDonald Institute at Queen’s University is situated in the traditional territory of the Anishinaabe & Haudenosaunee First Nations. We are a national network of institutions and research centres, which operate in other traditional Indigenous territories across Canada. 

Living through this pandemic in relative comfort has me thinking more about what land acknowledgement means and why it is important. For me, identifying myself as a white male settler, it is about recognizing my privilege and where it comes from, and learning about the historical and continuing challenges that Indigenous peoples face. I feel fortunate to call Canada my home and to be able to raise my family here, and I know that I need to work towards reconciliation. Acknowledging the traditional Indigenous territories that we live on is a small step toward that much larger mission.

Please visit to learn the traditional territories where you and our community of astroparticle physicists are grateful to live and work across Canada.

Thank you,

(pronouns: he/him/his)
Communications Officer,
Arthur B. McDonald Canadian Astroparticle Physics Research Institute
We've recently launched a LinkedIn Group for the Canadian Astroparticle Physics Community and are inviting all members of the community to join the group.

We’re hoping to get a wide variety of members joining as we aim to provide value for researchers of all levels, as well as administrators, engineers working in the field, and also astroparticle alumni who may be working in industry.

The goal of the group is to provide a platform for you to grow your professional network in a meaningful way resulting in personal connections that support your career path. This is a long-term goal. We are forming the group and will be steadily growing the membership so that when you do have a question, a story, or piece of advice to share with the community, the members of the group will be there to help you.

Key topics that we encourage you to post about and engage with include:

1. Networking and Mentorship

a) Ask about and share career stories and advice
b) Conversations relevant to day-to-day science, but also in professional life:
      like: What's the most useful thing you learned in Grad school?
             What’s the most important thing you did after graduating?
              What’s the most important leadership skill to have?
2. Professional Development Opportunities

a) Promote training opportunities and online courses
b) Share job postings, calls for proposals, internships, etc.
c) Post testimonials or reviews of learning resources.

3. Sharing Science Conversations

a) Post about your new publications
b) Start a discussion about a new result
c) Write an Astro/Particle/Physics Book/paper review
d) Host a Zoom coffee to chat about life on Venus? 
If you’re not on LinkedIn, we highly encourage you to create a profile and join the group, follow the McDonald Institute, and start connecting with your peers. If you have any questions, let the McDonald Institute team know at or

Please note that this is a private group on LinkedIn. Individuals request to join and are approved by the group administrators. However, we're not certain how protected the information posted inside the group is, so please avoid posting open Zoom call links or other information that you would not want to be shared publicly.

Annual Canadian APP National Meeting

Between the 25th-27th of August, the McDonald Institute gathered members of the astroparticle physics community in VirBELA, a state-of-the-art virtual conferencing software, for the 2020 Annual National Meeting. Within the virtual space, the community went over the highlights of Canadian research progress, reflected on the past and future of the Astroparticle physics community, and gave space to key-note speakers and researchers to discuss their findings. The themes of the 2020 Annual National Meeting were: science progress, leadership, equity and sustainment.
Using VirBELA as the digital venue of this year’s meeting, community members had the chance to pioneer and familiarize themselves with the next generation of conferencing tools.

Leadership in Science

Art McDonald spoke as a part of the National Annual Meeting and final McDonald Institute Professional Development & Learning session. As part of his presentation, he introduced the principles of productive working groups and the qualities of a leader to exemplify. Art believed that at the core of every leader was: inclusivity, motivation, organization, communication, documentation, education, mentoring and professional development.
Special Guest Dr. Eden Hennesey on Equity and the Science Identity
On the second day of the Annual National Meeting, the community gave a warm welcome to social psychologist and data-driven artist, Dr. Eden Hennesey. Sharing an image of a mirror, she posed the questions, “who are you? How do you know?” and “What tells you who you are?” to the astroparticle physics community. “Questions that social scientists and social psychologists have pondered for decades.”

The most popular answer: social identity theory, the theory that claims that our social identity consists of “aspects of our self-image that derives from the social categories with which we identify.”
A Discussion on the Sustainability of the Astroparticle Physics Community

McDonald Institute Scientific Director Tony Noble and Managing Director Fouad Elgindy presented on the impacts of the McDonald Institute and discussed how sustainability is strategically integrated into the Institute's operating plan.

Researcher Melanie Hall presented her findings on student's decision-making. One of the most poignant findings was the lack of familiarity students had with the field of astroparticle physics. Melanie found that of the undergraduate students she surveyed, 60 percent said they did not know the field of astroparticle physics existed. Of the 33 percent that was aware, many did not know about the field until 4th year.

Melanie offered six recommendations to the community to alleviate recruitment challenges:

  1. Support faculty with recruitment
  2. Re-brand astroparticle physics opportunities
  3. Introduce students earlier
  4. Improve websites
  5. Offer campus visits/summer programs
  6. Increase financial support
Melanie’s data was collected from survey questionnaires sent out to physics undergraduates and grad students across Canada (with the assistance of the Canadian Association of Physics). 

Please visit the McDonald Institute website for a full report on the Annual National Meeting, including notes on proceedings and links to resources.

The Cross-Disciplinary Internship (CDI) Calls for Proposals Announced! 

The Cross-Disciplinary Internship program provides a salary reimbursement for full- or part-time students registered in non-physics majors to participate in astroparticle physics research. Non-physics disciplines include, but are not limited to, artificial intelligence, biology, chemistry, climate change, computer sciences, cultural studies, economics, education, engineering, gender studies, geography, geological sciences, health studies, history, Indigenous studies, law, sociology, etc. By design, the CDI program aims to enhance the student experience by building unique and meaningful collaborations to engage in discovery-based research. Creative and novel collaborations are highly encouraged and prioritized for funding.  
Up to six positions will be funded at a value of $12,000 CAN each for the CDI 2021 funding call. The application deadline is Friday, November 27, 2020, at 4 pm EDT
Application guidelines, eligibility, and documents are available on the CDI website:
If you are an astroparticle physics researcher and you would like to advertise your lab and potential projects, please be in touch with our Business Development Officer at Examples from faculty are available on the CDI website. We encourage researchers to reach out to non-physics departments at their host institution to advertise this unique opportunity! 

Celebrating the Success of the Summer 2020 Cross-Disciplinary Interns 
Students who participated in the pilot Cross-Disciplinary Internship through the McDonald Institute celebrated the conclusion of their four-month virtual placement at the Annual National Meeting. We were delighted to host Emily Darling, Kaelan Renault, Georges Kanaan, Sidney Leggett (Wápiskisiw Pinésiw Iskwéw) and Lucas Fenaux as our inaugural interns for the summer 2020 term.  
(Left to right: Emily Darling, Kaelan Renault, Georges Kanaan, Sidney Leggett (Wápiskisiw Pinésiw Iskwéw), and Lucas Fenaux.) 
Emily Darling (undergraduate, Geological Sciences, Queen’s University) spent her summer working virtually with Dr. Simon Viel at Carleton University on a project entitled “Muon flux characterization in the DEAP-3600 water Cherenkov muon veto”. She developed knowledge mobilization materials for the general public to learn more about astroparticle physics research. Emily won first prize at the McDonald Institute’s Annual National Meeting for her poster presentation outlining the work achieved with Dr. Viel’s research group over the summer!
Kaelan Renault (Master’s student, Computational Sciences, Laurentian University) worked with Dr. Clarence Virtue on “Modeling of the Neutron Detector Characterisation Facility for Supernova Physics”. Through his research, Kaelan developed a user manual to execute a mini-HALO Monte Carlo simulation for researchers at SNOLAB.
Sidney Leggett (undergraduate student, Computer Science, The University of Winnipeg) worked virtually with Dr. Matthew Leybourne at Queen’s University on the development of novel isotopic techniques in neutrinoless double beta decay and low-background in support of astroparticle physics. Sidney developed knowledge mobilization materials for the general public to learn more about geological applications to astroparticle physics research.
Georges Kanaan and Lucas Fenaux (both undergraduate students, Computer Science, University of Toronto) were involved with “Applying Machine Learning to Event Reconstruction for the SuperCDMS SNOLAB Experiment” with Dr. Miriam Diamond at the University of Toronto. Together, Georges and Lucas provided a presentation applying machine learning to the search for dark matter.

Congratulations to all interns on their successful summer!

If you have any questions about the CDI 2020 program or knowledge mobilization materials, please contact the Research Personnel and Event Coordinator at

Science Communication and The Conversation Canada
The Conversation is a highly respected channel for science news in Canada and internationally, and stories regularly get picked up by other national news outlets and media.

Every fall, The Conversation hosts workshops across the country, giving faculty and students information on how to write for the publication. I recently attended one such workshop and have a few key takeaways that I'll share:

  1. Faculty members, PhD students and Postdocs may submit pitches. Master's students must co-author stories with a faculty member.
  2. Submit a pitch (50 words or less). Do not submit a draft of your story or article. The editors will help you decide what the most interesting aspect of your story is, and help you focus on that.
  3. Create an author profile today! You will need to have an author profile to submit, so why not do it now? Author profiles are an important way for the editors to verify your qualifications, so spending a bit of time of your profile is recommended.

The most important point I will share here, which came up in discussion, is that The Conversation needs more physics stories! So please feel encouraged to create your author profile and prepare a pitch. We also encourage anyone interested to reach out to the McDonald Institute Communications team and the communications teams at your home institutions for any additional guidance.
Celebrating the Summer of Science

The McDonald Institute’s Summer of Science completed its online run in August, which was a fantastic success. 18 middle and high school students from across the continent joined in for 12 afternoon sessions focused on doing science and learning about particle physics and astronomy.

The Summer of Science was led by the three summer McDonald Institute Undergraduate Fellows, Matthew Green, Eesha Lodhi, and Maggie Oxford. They were able to quickly pivot to an online platform where they fostered a shared space of interactive learning. The summer of science culminated in student presentations, with topics as far-ranging as quantum computing, N-body simulations, chaos theory, and panspermia. We were inspired by the curiosity students brought to the sessions and their passion for physics. Thanks again, everyone, for helping to make this a great program.

In particular, a big thank you to Eesha, Maggie, and Matthew, who, on top of facilitating the Summer of Science, also pursued research projects on black holes in extra dimensions, the impact of super-massive black holes on understanding galaxy dynamics, and modeling stellar kinematics in the Milky Way, respectively. We look forward to running Summer of Science again next summer! 
McDonald Institute Seminar recordings are available!

Recently we have been working through the recordings of previous McDonald Institute Seminars and are happy to announce that several are now available on the McDonald Institute YouTube channel and our website. When visiting the McDonald Institute Seminars page, available talks are indicated by a blue play icon and are embedded in the event page.

Upcoming Events:

SNOLAB Seminar Series

October 19th at 1 pm ET: ”Constraints on dark matter-nucleon effective couplings in the presence of kinematically distinct halo substructures using the DEAP-3600 detector” (Ariel Zuñiga-Reyes, UNAM)

October 26th at 1 pm ET: “Quantum dot and superconductor research with the quantum physics group at National Research Council of Canada” (Aviv Padawer-Blatt, SNOLAB)

November 2nd at 1 pm ET: “New Results from ICECUBE” (Prof. Juan Pablo Yanez, University of Alberta)

November 9th at 1 pm ET: “Reducing the impact of radioactivity on quantum circuits in a deep-underground facility” (Dr. Laura Cardani, Roma1 INFN)

For connection details, please send an email to Mark Richardson.

TRIUMF’s Saturday Morning Lecture series

The Fall 2020 SML series runs from September 26 to December 12. For more information about how to tune in, please visit:
This month's Zoom/Teams background is one of my own illustrations that was featured in the Queen's Research Dark Matter Detectives article: the Dark Matter Search! It is an abstraction of the famous Dark Matter search plot and represents the ways that astroparticle physicists are probing and constraining the WIMP parameter space. Enjoy!

Thank you for your continued interest in the Canadian astroparticle physics community.
If you would like to view past newsletters from the McDonald Institute, please visit the: Newsletter Archive.

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