SNOLAB Announces Appointment of New Director

February 12, 2009 — People Stories

Sudbury, Ontario – SNO Institute Board of Management Chair Dr. William McLatchie announced today that Dr. Nigel Smith has been appointed as the new Director of the SNOLAB International Underground Science Facility, effective June 1, 2009.

Dr. Smith comes to SNOLAB from STFC Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, Oxfordshire, England where he is Deputy Divisional Head (Precision Weak Physics) and Group Leader (Dark Matter). He is Project Manager for the Boulby Underground Facility and the ZEPLIN III Dark Matter experiment and a visiting Professor at Imperial College, London, England. Dr. Smith brings extensive experience in underground science and broad scientific management abilities. He was appointed following a six month search by an international selection committee. He will replace Dr. Tony Noble who has served as SNOLAB Director for three years.

Nigel Smith received his Bachelor of Science in physics from Leeds University in 1985 and his Ph. D. in astrophysics from Leeds in 1991. He served as a lecturer at Leeds University and a Research Associate at Imperial College, London before moving to Rutherford Appleton Laboratory as Group Leader (Dark Matter) in 1998. He has worked in astrophysics studies throughout his career. His early research work was in studies of ultra high energy gamma rays from astrophysical sources using extensive air shower array telescopes in Harrogate, UK and at the South Pole. In 1987 he “wintered-over” as the sole operator of the telescope at the U.S. Amundsen-Scott station at the South Pole, being the first Briton to successfully winter at the Pole itself. Since 1992 he has been actively involved in the development and operation of underground detectors to search for the Weakly Interacting Dark Matter particles left over from the Big Bang and thought to make up about 23% of the Universe. He has been a leader of the research program at the Boulby underground facility in Northern England, participating in the development of a progression of detection techniques with increasing sensitivity that have led to the present ZEPLIN III detector based on liquid xenon. He has also been extensively involved in the development of the Boulby underground laboratory for scientific research and in public outreach activities. Dr. Smith has served on many international committees in the field including his present responsibilities as Co-Chair of the ASPERA Dark Matter Working Group and member of the Institute of Physics Astroparticle Physics Group committee.

Dr. Smith expressed his excitement at the prospect of his new position,“SNOLAB is a fantastic Canadian research laboratory that is attracting some of the best international astroparticle physics experiments in the world. Its extreme depth and cleanliness provides an ultra-low background environment in which to perform these exquisite measurements. It’s a great privilege, and wonderfully exciting, to be given the opportunity to serve as Director of SNOLAB and I really look forward to working with the great team there to continue to develop its strong and world-leading research programme.”

Background information:

The SNOLAB International Underground Science Facility is situated 2 km underground in Vale-INCO’s Creighton Mine near Sudbury, Ontario, Canada. The new facility was created by an expansion of the underground research areas next to the highly successful Sudbury Neutrino Observatory (SNO) experiment. The entire laboratory is operated as an ultra-clean space to limit local radioactivity. With greater depth than any other international laboratory it has the lowest background from cosmic rays providing an ideal location for measurements of rare processes that would be otherwise unobservable. Measurements are planned by a number of international collaborations that will seek Dark Matter particles left from the Big Bang and search for a rare radioactive process called neutrino-less double beta decay that could help explain the development of matter in the early Universe. Other experiments will measure neutrinos from the Sun, the Earth, watch for Supernovae in our galaxy and measure local seismic activity. The facility is operated by the SNO Institute with Canadian scientific participants from Laurentian University, Carleton University, Queen’s University, University of Montreal, University of Guelph, University of Alberta, University of British Columbia and TRIUMF laboratory.