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Mark C. Chen Astroparticle physics

Mark Chen’s area of specialization is particle astrophysics. Cosmologists already know that particle properties deeply influence the evolution of the Universe: from the time of inflation, through Big Bang nucleosynthesis, into the formation of galaxies and other structures, and into the present. One of Chen’s involvements is with the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory (SNO), a giant particle detector buried 2 km underground in an active nickel mine. In June 2001, collaborators announced that they had solved a 30-year mystery concerning apparently missing solar neutrinos. There are three types of neutrino, all of which are elementary particles of matter that are emitted by the billions by the nuclear reactions that fuel the sun. Since the 1970’s, several experiments have detected neutrinos arriving on Earth, but they have found only a fraction of the number expected from detailed theories of energy production in the sun. SNO’s scientists have now discovered that electron neutrinos actually transform into other types of neutrinos while traveling from the sun to the Earth, and are therefore not “missing” after all. This discovery also indicates that neutrinos have mass, and will be very important in reaching a greater understanding of the Universe at the most microscopic level. Chen is also involved in the exploration of ultra high-energy cosmic rays. A puzzling question in particle astrophysics relates to the origin and propagation of cosmic rays. At the highest energies, cosmic rays should be attenuated by the microwave background, and should not be detected from sources with distances greater than 150 million light-years. Experiments on Earth have observed over a dozen such energetic events that appear to defy this cutoff. Is this hinting at a particle physics breakthrough or indicating that an energetic source in the vicinity of the Earth may be the origin of fantastic cosmic acceleration? Chen is exploring novel ways to detect cosmic rays and neutrinos by attempting to detect the radio signals they produce when they strike the Moon, using the Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope in India.


NSERC John C. Polanyi Award, 2006.

Premier’s Research Excellence Award, 2003.

John S. Stemple Memorial Prize in Physics, 1993.

Relevant Publications

M.C. Chen. "Geoneutrino Detection." In: Holland H.D. and Turekian K.K. (eds.) Treatise on Geochemistry, Second Edition, vol. 15, pp. 443-453. 2014.

B. Aharmim et al., "Combined Analysis of all Three Phases of Solar Neutrino Data from the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory," Phys. Rev. C, vol. 88, pp. 025501, Aug. 2013.



Senior Fellow Gravity & the Extreme Universe


Queen's UniversityDepartment of Physics



Ideas Related to Mark C. Chen

Symposium Debrief | Cosmology & Gravity

Symposium Brief: Untangling the Cosmos

On May 17, 2017, CIFAR, in partnership with the Ontario Science Centre, held a day-long symposium called “Untangling the Cosmos:...

Video | Cosmology & Gravity

Gazing at the Cosmos… From 6,800 Feet Underground

Senior Fellow Mark Chen‘s presentation at CIFAR’s Untangling the Cosmos Symposium.