The 3rd Annual Zoomer List: Canada’s Top 45 Over 45: The God Particle’s Physicists

Installing the ATLAS calorimeter

When scientists announced the possible discovery of the Higgs boson, or God particle, in July, the country proudly celebrated the finding’s Canadian connection.

Nigel Lockyer, 58, director of TRIUMF

Think of him as a super-sleuth in the world of particle physics. After decades of searching for the painfully elusive Higgs boson, he joined Vancouver-based TRIUMF, Canada’s national laboratory for particle and nuclear physics, as its director in 2007. Once there, he solidified the data analysis team and helped co-ordinate it with common efforts around the world. The years of dedication to the elusive by Lockyer and thousands of others finally paid off with the discovery of a particle that  is consistent with the Higgs boson. “I do have an osmotic collective sense of success.”

Rob McPherson, 48, principal investigator at ATLAS

First, Canadians helped build ATLAS, a large particle detector located at the CERN Large Hadron Collider (LHC) near Geneva, Switzerland. When it proved to be one of the pivotal experiments that led to the aforementioned possible discovery of the Higgs boson, it was McPherson at the helm as principal investigator of a 150-member team. The discovery itself was a  omentous group success – a “tremendous validation” of the decades of work that led to it – but it also marked the culmination of McPherson’s personal 15-year search for the Higgs boson. And like any good researcher, he views the achievement as simply the beginning of an even greater scientific journey. “I see the Higgs as the first step to a much deeper understanding of matter and energy in the universe – There are tantalizing hints that [dark energy and  dark matter are] deeply connected to the Higgs particle, and we will learn this, using ATLAS and the LHC over the coming decade.”