Physicists among University of Alberta recipients of Canada Research Chairs

Lindsay LeBlanc and Joseph Maceijko are newest Canada Research Chairs in the Department of Physics, while Aksel Hallin's appointment has been renewed.

Suzette Chan and University of Alberta News Staff - 10 November 2014

(Edmonton) Three members of the University of Alberta's Department of Physics have been named Canada Research Chairs (CRCs).

Assistant professors Lindsay LeBlanc and Joseph Maciejko will both hold Tier II CRC awards, each of which is worth $500,000 over five years. Professor Aksel Hallin's CRC Tier I chair was renewed for a second term.

LeBlanc, who came to the U of A from the University of Maryland, was named Canada Research Chair in Ultracold Gases for Quantum Simulation. LeBlanc's lab mimics quantum mechanical systems using a flexible and adaptable ultracold gas to explore the optimal conditions for collective quantum behaviour in an effort to find novel and efficient ways to engineer electronic devices. Her lab is also funded by a grant from the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI).

"The Canada Research Chair has given me the opportunity to come back to Canada and continue my research using experiments that probe the key quantum mechanical ingredients governing the behaviour of many-particle systems," LeBlanc said. "Together with the infrastructure funding from CFI, this opportunity lets me pursue these questions in a state-of-the-art laboratory."

Montreal native Maciejko was named CRC in condensed matter theory. Recently arrived from Princeton University, Maciejko is using theoretical methods to explain and predict the properties of topological phases of quantum matter such as topological insulators for possible use in novel energy-efficient electronics.

"The Canada Research Chair was an important factor in my decision to come back to Canada to pursue my research on the theory of topological phases of matter," he said. "It will allow me to develop new mathematical models based of the laws of quantum mechanics to understand the properties of these exotic forms of matter, in the hope of finding new applications for them."

Hallin holds the Canada Research Chair in Astroparticle Physics. Hallin came to the University of Alberta from Queens in 2007 to establish a research program in underground neutrino physics research. Hallin said the renewed CRC will enable his research in several ways.

"We will be turning on the DEAP-3600 dark matter detector in the next few months, and will be filling the SNO+ neutrino detector, first with water and then with scintillator fluid," said Hallin. "The CRC chair enables me to have an active presence on site during this exciting and critical time, and will also provide resources to support the students, postdoctoral researchers and infrastructure here at Alberta that are used to support my program."

The physicists were among 11 University of Alberta professors who were named as Canada Research Chairs on October 16. The U of A now claims 48 Tier 1 chairs and 38 Tier 2 chairs worth $13.4 million annually.

In 2000, the Government of Canada created the Canada Research Chairs program to establish 2,000 research professorships in eligible degree-granting institutions across the country. The program invests $300 million per year to attract and retain some of the world's most accomplished and promising minds.