Take Your MPP to Work day started early for France Gélinas and Jamie West, MPPs for Nickel Belt and Sudbury, respectively. They had to be at SNOLAB in time to gear up and catch the 8:00 am cage to the 6800 level, where the underground lab is located. Both Gélinas and West have visited SNOLAB before so this visit was an opportunity for them to learn more about some of the experiments in the lab with local connections, and the challenges of building experiments in an underground lab.
Dr. Chris Thome, a researcher with the Northern Ontario School of Medicine, is leading the REPAIR project, which explores the genetic effects of extremely low levels of background radiation on living cells. The experiment is testing a theory that on Earth’s surface, life has adapted to the background radiation that is always present so removing that background completely could have negative impacts. Inside SNOLAB’s underground life sciences and chemistry lab, Thome explained how the cell cultures are managed and studied. Then it was time for Gélinas and West to try their hand at exchanging the growth medium which feeds the cells.
Dr. Clarence Virtue, a professor at Laurentian University, is leading the HALO experiment, a supernova detector that searches for the signature neutrino burst they release. HALO is part of the worldwide ‘SNEWS’ network, the supernova early warning system, which alerts astronomers to pending supernovae. One important aspect of running and managing large detectors like this is making sure they are properly calibrated, and on Friday Gélinas and West got to assist in a HALO calibration test using a neutron source (which looked remarkably like a long orange tent pole – the source was attached to one end and fed into the middle of the detector through an access port).
March is also Professional Engineering month, so SNOLAB project manager Mehwish Obiad and PEO local chapter president Ronny Theiss joined the tour, discussing some of the unique engineering projects SNOLAB experiments demand. There are currently a number of projects in various stages, both adding to the lab infrastructure and supporting specific experiments that will be operating at SNOLAB.
SNOLAB was proud to have the opportunity to showcase local science and discuss the future goals of the lab with Gélinas, West, and Theiss. Said Executive Director Nigel Smith, “it was a pleasure to host our MPPs and highlight the important role that engineering plays in a high-level research ecosystem. We always appreciate the opportunity to share SNOLAB science and recognize contributions from the local community.”