2105 Nobel Prize in Physics winners have strong ties to the University of Hawai‘i



The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences has announced that the Nobel Prize in Physics for 2015 is going to two scientists for their key contributions to two experiments elucidating peculiar properties of subatomic particles known as neutrinos.  Takaaki Kajita of the University of Tokyo in Japan and Arthur B. McDonald of Queen’s University in Canada both have important connections to the University of Hawai‘i.


According to the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, Kajita’s and McDonald’s experiments demonstrated that neutrinos change identities and have mass.  “The discovery has changed our understanding of the innermost workings of matter and can prove crucial to our view of the universe,” the academy said in a release.  The results, along with subsequent others have now made clear that these ghostly neutrinos have the property of changing from one type or flavor to another as they fly, penetrating matter with almost no attenuation, characteristics unlike any other particle, and not predicted by the Standard Model of elementary particle physics.  These results have initiated what many call the neutrino revolution over the last two decades, with many new experiments, theoretical speculations and surprising results.




Since 2010, Art McDonald has been an affiliate professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa.  He typically spends about three months every year at UH Mānoa giving seminars and colloquia and brainstorming on neutrino physics and dark matter with members of the university’s high energy physics group, and talking physics with the nanoparticle group too.  McDonald has led the SNO group which in the late 2001 demonstrated that neutrinos produced in the core of the Sun changed identity by the time they arrive at the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory in Canada.   These convincing data presented the long awaited solution to “solar neutrino puzzle” an outstanding conundrum since the late 1960’s…. that electron neutrinos made in the sun were being changed to a combination of electron, muon and tau neutrinos by the time they arrived at earth.  Further information is at the SNO website https://www.snolab.ca/




Earlier, in June 1998, Tataaki Kajita presented the discovery that muon type neutrinos from the atmosphere switch identities while traversing the earth (muon neutrinos changing to mostly a combination of muon and tau neutrinos), based on new data from the Super-Kamiokande giant underground detector in Japan, a collaboration about 100 of mostly Japanese and US scientists.  He was the leader of the analysis group which extracted the dramatic results.  Early analysis of this work was carried out by University of Hawai‘i Professor John Learned and students.  UH physics PhD student John Flanagan wrote the first dissertation including the Super-Kamiokande’s groundbreaking results in 1997. The UH team at that time included Dr. Shige Matsuno and the late Prof. Vic Stenger. Analysis methods developed by UH have become standard in the field of neutrino oscillations, and ongoing results from Super-Kamiokande continue to refine the detailed understanding of the oscillations and related phenomenon. More information is available at the Super-Kamiokande website: http://www-sk.icrr.u-tokyo.ac.jp/sk/index-e.html


The present UH experimental neutrino research team consists as well of Profs. Jelena Maricic, Peter Gorham, and Gary Varner plus 15 students and postdocs, with a total grant income of about $2.5M per year. The theory work of UH Professor Sandip Pakvasa and colleagues, Profs. Tata, Kumar and Marfatia in the UH High Energy Physics group have been closely associated with both the Super-Kamiokande and Sudbury Neutrino Observatory efforts.

Discovery of Neutrino Oscillations and Mass

The following information relating to the Super-Kamiokande Collaboration June 1998 announcement of the discovery of muon neutrino oscillations, and thereby neutrino mass. The postings herein are a bit dated, though the conclusions remain valid and even strengthened with time.

Some more details:

Some graphical material:

Historical Material:

·         UH News Factsheet

·         Official SuperK News Release from Takayama, Japan

·         UH News Hawaii Connection

·         UH News Q and A, Lay Version

·         UH News Release, 5 June

Technical Material: