Canadian research is largely driven by the research programs of Canadian universities. In many fields, including nuclear and particle physics, the scientific quest for a greater understanding of nature exceeds the resources of any single institution. A national laboratory, working closely with the university community and drawing together the strengths and capabilities of many institutions, is required. In the context of the Canadian nuclear physics community, this requirement led to the founding of TRIUMF. Launched in 1968 by three universities as a local facility for intermediate-energy nuclear physics, TRIUMF has now grown to be a nationwide effort. The laboratory has also expanded its fields of research from nuclear physics to include particle physics, molecular and materials science, and nuclear medicine.
TRIUMF is owned and operated by a consortium of Canadian universities. The Board of Management, which has representation from the Canadian universities members, guides the overall direction of the laboratory. The Policy and Planning Advisory Committee, established in 2008, is comprised of university members and provides detailed input into TRIUMF’s policy and planning decisions.
As part of the subatomic physics community, TRIUMF scientists participate with university-based physicists in developing the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC)’s long-range plans for subatomic physics. TRIUMF uses these community-based plans, which discuss the long-term objectives of the field, to develop its own priorities. TRIUMF’s decisions about which projects to undertake are also guided by its policy of supporting only those projects that have been independently peer reviewed and endorsed by the scientific community.
The mix of resources at TRIUMF is very different than at a university. In fact, TRIUMF’s main strength is that it has a range of resources, both human and hardware. University-based researchers want to work with TRIUMF because these resources simply are not available at their home institutions. Scientists at TRIUMF become the key points of contact for their research. This contact helps foster collaborative partnerships among Canadian researchers and between Canadian researchers and their international colleagues. TRIUMF also provides salary support (in whole or in part) for about a dozen scientists resident at Canadian universities. In addition, as an active research centre, TRIUMF maintains an atmosphere that promotes intellectual activity through seminars, visitor programs, and workshops. Tying it all together is a management structure geared to maximizing the science impact for Canada.
The CFI (Canada Foundation for Innovation) program has had a dramatic impact on the Canadian university research program. Although TRIUMF cannot apply directly for CFI funds because they are available only to university researchers, university teams can apply for CFI awards for projects to be based at TRIUMF. TRIUMF’s capabilities have been expanded because a number of universities have elected to compete for, and win, support for TRIUMF-based projects.
The TRIUMF Life Sciences program is built on the lab’s unique ability to use its accelerator technology to produce isotopes, radiopharmaceuticals, and radiotracers for the diagnosis and treatment of disease. The centre-piece of this program is the TRIUMF/UBC PET Centre, a joint TRIUMF-university venture that studies the origins, progression, and treatment of Parkinson’s disease and other neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s.
No discussion of the TRIUMF-university relations would be complete without a discussion of students and training. Although TRIUMF itself does not grant degrees, it works with the university community to enhance students’ and post-doctoral fellows’ training and research experience. Between 2003 and 2008, 319 undergraduate students worked at TRIUMF and 104 Ph.D. and 203 M.Sc. degrees were awarded for work done at least partially at TRIUMF.
One of TRIUMF’s core strengths in its interactions with the Canadian academic community is flexibility, its ability to approach collaborations in a variety of ways. The three most prevalent approaches are now discussed with an example of each type.
Example 1. University Collaborations Exploiting ISAC’s Rare-Isotope Beams: TIGRESS
TIGRESS is a state-of-the-art γ-ray escape suppressed spectrometer for use at the ISAC-II facility. A collaboration headed by Carl Svensson, consisting of eight university-based and two TRIUMF-based physicists, applied for NSERC funding in the autumn of 2002. NSERC awarded the collaboration C$8 million over six years. This award is the largest single NSERC grant ever awarded for nuclear physics. Eight of the twelve modules of the full spectrometer are now on site, and three experiments have been performed.
TRIUMF has contributed substantially to this university-based, and university-led collaboration, first and foremost by providing the rare-isotope beams and the dedicated beam line needed to deliver them to the apparatus. Secondly, TRIUMF provided specialized dedicated laboratory services and personnel, engineering support, design office and machine shop time, and installation technicians. Finally, two TRIUMF research scientists, G. Hackman and G. Ball, oversaw the day-to-day management of the project and did a lot of the hands-on work that was necessary to make the spectrometer a reality.
The TIGRESS spectrometer provides a world-leading detector system to exploit the beams that only ISAC-II can supply. This unique combination of detectors and beams was only possible because the Canadian university research community, TRIUMF, NSERC, CFI, and foreign collaborators worked together to make it a reality.
Example 2. Canadian University Involvement at Foreign Laboratories: ATLAS
The ATLAS collaboration comprises about 2,000 scientists from 167 institutions in 37 countries. Canada represents 4% of the collaboration. The Canadian involvement started in 1991 with research and development from the University of Victoria and the University of Montreal. TRIUMF joined the team in 1994 and led the Canadian accelerator contribution to the large hadron collider. TRIUMF has subsequently been a major player in the experiment and presently hosts one (and the only one in Canada) of the ten ATLAS Tier-1 computing centres that process the data from the experiment.
Canadians were prominent in the construction of ATLAS primarily in the end-cap calorimeters, but more recently have significant involvements in the luminosity monitor, the diamond beam-conditions monitor, and the trigger.
The Canadian group in ATLAS comprises about 150 people, of whom 41 are university faculty or TRIUMF scientists. The TRIUMF involvement includes five Canadian faculty members who are TRIUMF-university joint appointments, and five TRIUMF resident research scientists. This group is heavily involved in the management of ATLAS Canada. Presently, Canada’s participation in the senior management of the collaboration exceeds what might be expected by its 4% involvement in the overall project. Over the past 15 years or so, the Canadian fraction of the leadership has fluctuated but has been consistently high.
Example 3. Molecular and Materials Science: ß-NMR
As implemented at TRIUMF, β-detected nuclear magnetic resonance (β-NMR) uses a low-energy ISAC-I radioactive ion beam to study phenomena in thin structures (less than about 200 nm thick and as thin as 2 nm). This is an extremely technologically important field of materials science. The β-NMR team consists of three principal investigators from TRIUMF-member universities: A. MacFarlane (UBC, Chemistry), R. Kiefl (UBC, Physics), and K. Chow (University of Alberta, Physics). These three researchers have driven the development of this novel technique, with TRIUMF playing an enabling role.
β-NMR requires an ultra-high vacuum sample environment with residual pressures in the range of 10 ⁻⁹ torr. The design challenges imposed by such criteria necessitated a significant investment, largely by TRIUMF, in design and construction of specialized beam lines. The TRIUMF Centre for Molecular and Materials Science (CMMS) leader, S. Kreitzman, designed the system that provides the radio-frequency magnetic field essential for many measurements.
The β-NMR facility provides an excellent example of the initiating role that TRIUMF plays in research that would be inconceivable in its absence. It also illustrates the potential synergies that exist when university-based research operates in concert with the scientific expertise and infrastructural capabilities of a national facility like TRIUMF.