Burgess inducted as Fellow of Royal Society of Canada

By Wendy Hostein, September 12, 2008

    Cliff Burgess, professor in the Department of Physics & Astronomy. File photo.
The Royal Society of Canada (RSC) recently elected Cliff Burgess, professor in the Department of Physics & Astronomy, into the Fellowship. The RSC is Canada's senior and most prestigious scholarly organization and election to it is the highest Canadian honour a scholar can achieve in the Arts, Humanities and Sciences.

With over 120 published articles, Burgess is one of Canada's most prolific and highly cited particle theorists. He is an associate member of the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics, has previously held a Killam Fellowship from the Canada Council for the Arts and last year was on sabbatical as a scientific associate at CERN.

His early work was dedicated to string theory, the concept that matter consists of small loops of "string." Much of his research dealt with high-energy physics -- the search for the most elementary building blocks of nature and the forces through which they interact.

Burgess' research interests have since taken a more phenomenological turn and lie at the interface between string theory and lower-energy physics, with a particular emphasis on early universe cosmology.

"Dr. Burgess has had an influential impact on high-energy physics and other fields," said John Capone, dean of the Faculty of Science. "We are extremely proud of Dr. Burgess. This is an outstanding achievement and a well-deserved recognition of his many seminal scientific contributions over the years."

Recently, Burgess has been preparing for the start-up of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), a $9-billion project located in Switzerland, to collide elementary particles at the highest energies ever achieved in the hopes of discovering new fundamental laws that describe nature at the smallest distances ever explored. In many ways, these collisions will recreate conditions just seconds after the big bang took place.

Burgess delivered the colloquium at the Sept. 10 start-up of the LHC in Montreal. He discussed why he thinks the LHC will discover extra dimensions and string theory, and yet will not produce a black hole that will eat the Earth.

This year's newly elected Fellows will be inducted into the Royal Society of Canada at a ceremony to be held Saturday, Nov. 15 in Ottawa.