Queen’s University NEWS-G Summer Students

In late April Queen’s faculty Gilles Gerbier, Ryan Martin and Guillaume Giroux welcomed four new Queen’s undergraduate student summer researchers to the NEWS-G collaboration.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic and current social distancing protocols their internship experience is, thus far, quite different from previous summers. Rather than working and learning in close quarters with their peers inside the NEWS-G campus laboratory, the students are working on their summer research projects from home. Despite the physical distance, the group remains united through frequent online video conferencing, be it for training seminars, progress meetings or simply socializing.

Directly supervising the summer students is lead scientist Philippe Gros, with postdoctoral fellows Alexis Brossard and Jean-Francois Caron assisting with training and mentoring, with graduate students Marie Vidal (PhD), Francisco Fernandez (PhD), George Savvidis (PhD) and Jean-Marie Coquillat (MSc) helping to acclimatize and orient the newest members.

Queen’s NEWS-G is also fortunate to have former students Carter Garrah and Douglas Gowing rejoin the collaboration this summer.

A very warm welcome to Ashley Micuda, Clara Mitchinson, Csaba Nemeth, and Frankie Polak. Below you can learn a bit about our newest collaboration members.

Ashley Micuda

I will soon be a third year Physics major at Queen’s University. I was initially attracted to doing research on dark matter this summer because I believed it would be a great opportunity to work with amazing scientists and get hands-on experience of what it’s like to do research while stimulating my passion for physics. Next year I will have the opportunity to apply what I have learned this summer towards my undergraduate education in Physics at Queen’s. Once graduated I plan to undertake a masters degree in Physics. This summer I am working from my hometown, Oakville, ON, where I have been keeping busy by playing sports and working out, as well as taking an online summer course to get ahead in school.

Clara Mitchinson

I just finished my first year of Engineering and will be going into Engineering Physics, specializing in Computing, next year. I first heard about SNOLAB when I was in high school and it’s been my goal to work there ever since. I’ve always been interested in science, especially space and physics. I applied for this internship because I wanted to increase my understanding of physics and programming outside of school. This summer I’m working from Oakville and when I’m not working, I’m probably going for a long walk to keep my surroundings interesting during social isolation.

Csaba Nemeth

I just completed my second year of Engineering Physics at Queen’s University, in the computing option. I had the great opportunity to tour the SNOLAB facilities last year and I was instantly intrigued and curious about all the experiments. Dark matter is fascinating because it stretches from the unthinkably small scale to governing the physics of the entire universe; hopefully I can wrap my head around these concepts in the coming months. The kind people at NEWS-G have been instrumental in fostering my interest about dark matter, and I am sure as the summer progresses this will continue. I am currently working from Kingston, and busying my time with cooking, reading, and catching up on a long list of recommended movies. 

Frankie Polak

I am a Physics major at Queen’s and I recently completed my third year. My dream is to become a physics professor, and I joined NEWS-G in order to gain dark matter research experience. Right now I’m working at my parents’ house in Ajax, Ontario, but I hope to be back at Queen’s by January. To pass the time at home, I’ve been reading a lot, knitting socks, and playing with my pet rats, Simon and Garfunkel.

NEWS-G Progress at SNOLAB

On January 28th, 2020, NEWS-G collaborators from Kingston (Queen’s University) and Edmonton (University of Alberta) connected in Sudbury, Ontario to prepare for the installation of the detector at SNOLAB. Components of the detector were cleaned and prepared for the journey underground, installation logistics were reviewed and finalized, and the graduate students, along with Dr. Gilles Gerbier, received important health and safety training to allow them to work in the mine over the coming months.

Below PhD Candidate Marie Vidal narrates photographs taken onsite, beginning with the (above-ground) cleaning process.

Each component of the detector has to be cleaned and re-packaged before being shipped underground. Here you can see small pieces of lead that will later be assembled into the detector’s shield.

The glove box is a very important component of the detector. Just as with everything else, it too needs a thorough cleaning before it can go down into the lab.

Our task force team: on the right (1st table) you can see us cleaning the lead pieces with a solvent and in the background (2nd table) we are drying and wrapping the pieces so that they remain dust-free.

More cleaning and wrapping detector parts in plastic.
Foreground: George Savvidis (PhD student, Queen’s University) Background: Alexis Brossard (Postdoctoral Fellow, Queen’s University)

We received extensive training which taught us how to move safely through the Vale-owned mine in order to access SNOLAB. We also received on-site health and safety and emergency preparedness training within SNOLAB.

On January 29th our mine training began at 6:00 am. After 1.5 hours of above-ground training, we took the ‘cage’ down into the mine. The cage took us 2 km underground, and then we walked over a kilometer, stopping to inspect every safety station, until we reached SNOLAB. The mine is hot, humid and the pressure is 30% higher than at the surface of the Earth, making work underground even more tiring.

Holding their lunches in black bags and awaiting their descent into the mine.
Left to right in yellow: Marie Vidal (PhD Candidate, Queen’s University), Dan Durnford (PhD Student, University of Alberta) and Jean-Marie Coquillat (MA Student, Queen’s University)

Left to right: Alexis Brossard, Dan Durnford, Jean-Marie Coquillat,
Gilles Gerbier, Marie Vidal and George Savvidis

Just steps away from the entrance to SNOLAB. Everyone must shower and change their clothing before they can enter further.

Postdoctoral fellows and graduate students in front of the NEWS-G sphere
Left to right: Alexis Brossard, Marie Vidal, Jean-Marie Coquillat, Dan Durnford and George Savvidis

After a tour of some of the other physics experiments at SNOLAB (SuperCDMS/CUTE, SNO+, DEAP) we were able to finally lay eyes on the site where our experiment, NEWS-G, will be constructed.

All in all it was a great and productive trip!

Recent awards received by NEWS-G members

As year 2019 started, three members of the NEWS-G collaboration got granted with different awards for their outstanding research projects.

Quentin Arnaud, former member of the Queen’s university team, and Ioannis Katsioulas, from the IRFU CEA Saclay team, both received a Marie Skłodowska Curie Individual Fellowship. The goal of the Individual Fellowships is to enhance the creative and innovative potential of experienced researchers, wishing to diversify their individual competence in terms of skill acquisition through advanced training, international and intersectoral mobility. The grant is awarded to scientists of different disciplines from around the world and is considered to be among Europe’s most competitive and prestigious awards, aimed at supporting the best and most promising scientists.

Quentin succesfully stood out with the SELENnews-g-collaboration-queen's-university-quentin-arnaudDIS project, with a total score of 95.80%. The goal of this research project is to design, develop and operate a novel direct detection technology called SELENDIS (Single ELEctron Nuclear recoil DIScrimination), to reach sensitivity to low-mass Dark Matter particles down to 100 MeV/c2 with the unique capability of distinguishing nuclear recoils and electronic recoils down to a single electron/hole pair. SELENDIS will consist of an array of two 30-g Si and Ge cryogenic bolometers operated at a high voltage, and will be hosted at IPNL (Lyon, France).

news-g-collaboration-cea-saclay-ioannis-katsioulasIoannis was awarded for the DarkSphere project, aspiring to shine a light on the nature of Dark Matter, with the NEWS-G direct detection experiment that focuses on an as of yet unexplored mass range (0.1 to 10 GeV/c2). Beyond use in fundamental physics research, the detector concepts relevant for DarkSphere have potential for industrial and medical applications, which are also explored. The project has a duration of two years and will be hosted at the University of Birmingham (UK).

Moreover, Konstantinos Nikolopoulos, from the University of Birmingham team, was awarded the 2019 Blavatnik Award for Young Scientists in the United Kingdom in the area of Physical kostas_awardSciences & Engineering, in recognition for leadership of and personal contributions to a subgroup of approximately 100 physicists in ATLAS at CERN that made key contributions to the first observation of the Higgs boson. Unlike awards that honor scientists late in their careers, the Blavatnik Awards aim to identify and encourage promising young scientists early in their careers, to help them be in a better position to bolster their early research efforts.

NEWS-G @ TUNL : new quenching factor measurements

At the end of January, two members of the Queen’s University team, Philippe and Marie, went to TUNL (Triangle University National Laboratory in North Carolina) to estimate the quenching factor of the gas mixture used in the experiment.

Duke University, Durham, NC

Light Dark Matter and coherent neutrino scattering (CEνNS) detection relies on the interaction with nuclei from the gas mixture, producing nuclear recoils. However, the energy calibration of detectors is done using gammas sources, producing electronic recoils. An electronic recoil and a nuclear recoil of the same energy interact differently in the medium, thus don’t appear to deposit the same amount of energy. Enter the quenching factor, a scale used to convert the nuclear recoil observed into its “real” energy. (more…)

Queen’s university team in France


Members of the NEWS-G team after a visit to Laboratoire Souterrain de Modane (LSM), in France. From left to right: Koby Dering, Carolyne Neron, Philippe Gros, Michel Zampaolo & Michel Gros

The NEWS-G team was at LSM to inspect the copper hemispheres that will form the centre of the NEWS-G project at SNOLAB, and to plan for the first testing of the experiment at LSM early next year (before packing everything up and shipping to Canada). Earlier in the week, the team members visited Fonderie de Gentilly, just outside Paris, to inspect ongoing work. Fonderie de Gentilly is fabricating the 28000 kg spherical lead shield for the SNOLAB project, which will protect the detector from gamma radiation

5th NEWS-G collaboration meeting in Kingston, ON, Canada – November 29-30, 2018

One and a half years after the last gathering in Kingston, Queen’s University was chosen again to host the 5th edition of the NEWS-G collaboration meeting.

More than 30 collaborators from all over the world (Canada, USA, France, Greece, UK) traveled to Kingston, where the group led by Prof. Gilles Gerbier is based.

The collaboration has seen many changes in 2018, and this event gave new members the opportunity to meet the other teams and to visit the NEWS-G facilities at Queen’s university.

During the 2-day meeting, participants presented on a wide variety of topics and participated in discussions on many aspects of the project, especially the upcoming experiment at SNOLAB.

The meeting concluded with a dinner on the shores of the Cataraqui River, and everyone is looking forward to meeting again in 2019!