University of Saskatchewan

September 20, 2014   

Basic Research Discoveries

Pentaquark Discovery
The ninth-ranked scientific story of the year in Discovery magazine's 2003 Top 100 Science Stories issue involved U of S particle physicist Chary Rangacharyulu who was part of an international team that discovered a new sub-atomic particle -- one that may change our understanding of physics and the very early universe. The discovery was made at the SPring-8 synchrotron in Osaka, Japan.

Rangacharyulu was the only Canadian on a team led by Takashi Nakano of Osaka University who reported in July that his team had detected a pentaquark, a bizarre subatomic particle built from five quarks. Quarks are the building blocks of protons and neutrons, which in turn make up the nucleus of atoms. Physicists were aware of two- and three-quark particles, but had searched in vain for five-quark particles for more than three decades.

Rangacharyulu has spent the last seven years working on the project and his summer students and a postdoctoral assistant participated in preparing the experiments at the SPring-8 synchrotron. The discovery, picked up by such publications as Nature, New Scientist and The New York Times, is also cited a one of the three top physics stories of 2003 by the American Institute of Physics.

Algebra Breakthrough
Robert Moody, a B.A. graduate (1962) of U of S and U of S professor from 1966-1989, was the inaugural winner of the Canadian Mathematical Society's 1978 Coxeter-James prize which is given annually to the most outstanding Canadian mathematician within 10 years of his or her degree. In 1996, he was the first Canadian to win the Eugene Wigner Medal for outstanding contributions to the understanding of physics through group theory."

This latter award was for the Kac-Moody algebras, which he discovered in the 1960s independently from but simultaneously with Russian mathematician Victor Kac. The Kac-Moody algebras have given rise to numerous applications in various fields of mathematics and mathematical physics. By the mid-1980s, the Kac-Moody algebras and their offspring, Virasoro algebras, had emerged as the basic mathematical structure underlying superstring theory.

In 1989, he joined the Department of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences at the University of Alberta in1989 and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and an Officer of the Order of Canada, as well as a winner of numerous other prizes and awards including the Canada Council's Killam Prize in 2002.