Science and Industry Minister François-Philippe Champagne (second from left) was in Sudbury on Friday to announce more than $100 million for SNOLAB, located deep in Vale’s Creighton Mine. Mia Jensen Colleen Romaniuk, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Aug 20, 2022 at 01:32

By Mia Jensen, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

In a press conference two km underground, the federal government announced more than $100 million in funding to support astroparticle physics research happening deep below Sudbury.

Early Friday, members of the team at SNOLAB brought a group of partners, politicians and media down the shaft at Vale’s Creighton Mine to give a tour of their clean lab facility, where more than 100 staff members facilitate neutrino and dark matter studies.

In the depths of the facility, innovation, Science and Industry Minister François-Philippe Champagne held what he called “the deepest news conference in Canadian history” to announce that SNOLAB would be one of 19 beneficiaries of federal totalling $628 million.

The funding will be provided through the Canada Foundation for Innovation’s Major Science Initiative Fund, and will support 19 projects across 14 Canadian institutions.

SNOLAB will receive $102 million over six years to support its work.

“The type of research they’re doing here is cutting edge,” said Champagne. “This is one of many research facilities we have across the country which not only aims to answer the big questions of our time, but also to solve our most unique challenge. That’s why we need facilities like this.”

Sustained funding from government bodies has allowed SNOLAB to become a global leader in astroparticle physics, and has helped put Sudbury on the map, according to SNOLAB executive director Jodi Cooley.

She said the money will go towards supporting its ongoing research projects and international staff. She said there are also in the process of bringing a new “next generation experiment” to an area of the lab called the Cryopit, and the funding will help fulfil preliminary processes.

“We have two experiments right now that could fill that space, and have listed (this location) in their initial proposals as the baseline choice,” said Cooley. “To host those experiments, we definitely need to be ramping up some of our infrastructure, and doing some hiring of expertise.  

The funding announcement also comes as SNOLAB celebrates its 10th year of its facility. The underground lab — which was the culmination of decades of work dating back to the 1980s — originally opened in 2012, and has seen gained international recognition for its work, bringing in expertise from across the world.

Beyond its work in astropartical physics, the lab’s staff has also conducted genomics and metabolism studies, ultra-sensitive environmental monitoring, and quantum computing testing.

“For more than a decade, SNOLAB has been the centre for cutting-edge research,” said Marc Serre, MP for Nickel Belt, who was also in attendance. “(This funding) will attract world-class experiments to Greater Sudbury and Nickel Belt. I look forward to hearing about the advancements that will be made through this funding.”

Examples of other facilities being funded are:

Advanced Laser Light Source (ALLS): Based at the Université du Québec – Institut national de la recherche scientifique (INRS), Canada’s most powerful laser is operated at ALLS, the first facility of its kind in the world. Using lasers to investigate matter, ALLS enables leading-edge research in areas such as biology, medicine, chemistry, physics and telecommunications. Manufacturing more efficient batteries, using X-ray imaging for sustainable agriculture and detecting diseases at an earlier stage are some of ALLS’ numerous applications.

Canadian Cancer Trials Group Operations and Statistics Centre at Queen’s University: With about 20,000 members across the world, this is the only Canadian research facility with expertise and infrastructure capable of supporting the entire range of cancer trial proposals. Its patient engagement model has been extensively shared nationally and internationally. It was created by cancer researchers and aims to improve the survival and quality of life of cancer patients. The research supported by this facility develops innovative therapies, advances understanding of cancer resistance and reduces the burden of cancer treatment.

Coalition Publica: A partnership between Érudit and the Public Knowledge Project, Coalition Publica is an initiative led by Université de Montréal to advance research dissemination and digital scholarly publishing in Canada. Supporting the social sciences and humanities in fields such as Indigenous studies and education, Coalition Publica is developing a non-commercial, open-source national infrastructure for digital scholarly publishing, diffusion and research.

The Global Water Futures Observatories (GWFO): A network of 76 water monitoring sites across the country, GWFO encompasses lakes, rivers and wetlands in seven provinces and territories including six major river basins, as well as the Great Lakes. This network allows researchers to gain important insights into how changing climate and increased flooding, drought and contaminants are putting Canada’s freshwaters at risk.

Ocean Networks Canada (ONC): Operating a broad range of ocean observatories from the deep ocean to coastal waters, and on land, ONC provides unique technical capabilities to advance our understanding of the role of oceans on climate change and the impact it has on them. The knowledge generated by this unique facility enables scientists, governments, organizations and citizens to make informed decisions for healthy ecosystems, strong economies and resilient communities. ONC is hosted and owned by the University of Victoria.

This item reprinted with permission from The Star, Sudbury, Ontario