Ask our founders and emeriti about TRIUMF’s humble beginnings and you will invariably hear: “This used to be just a big pile of dirt.”
You could imagine our first director, Dr. John Warren, standing alongside other founding members at the edge of an empty lot, contemplating possibilities. But not even TRIUMF’s founders could have imagined the twists and turns of the lab’s 50-year journey, nor the impact that TRIUMF would have on the people of Canada and the world.
Today, on that same 12.8-acre plot of land, TRIUMF houses world-leading research and technology, and fuels Canada’s collective imagination for the future of particle and nuclear physics and accelerator-based science. Though younger than the mossy trees lining its eastern edge, TRIUMF has already established itself as one of Canada’s leading institutions in physics research, positioning Canada among the world’s most valuable science assets. From uncovering the laws that govern the universe, to developing revolutionary new medicines, to training the next generation of scientists, TRIUMF has spent the last 50 years making the world a better place.
Understanding our universe
Training the next generation
Translating science to society
Half a century dedicated to understanding our universe
What started from a pile of dirt in the 1960’s has grown into Canada’s particle accelerator centre: a multidisciplinary home to some of the world’s most powerful tools for exploring the universe, and to the people whose curiosity and expertise bring these machines to life.
TRIUMF’s accelerators and beamlines have come to be known as sterling examples within the industry – and they’re getting better. Our expertise in particle accelerator technology has led to long-lasting and impactful relationships with game-changing multinational physics experiments like ATLAS at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN, or T2K in Japan. TRIUMF has also become the central hub for Canadian scientists working on the ALPHA experiment at CERN, which is currently probing the properties of antimatter.
A half-century of excellence in training
In the last five decades, TRIUMF has welcomed thousands of undergraduate and graduate students, Ph.D. candidates, and post-doctoral fellows through its doors. From our first summer students in 1967, to the Isotopes for Science and Medicine (IsoSiM) program of today, we have a proud history of providing access to world-class tools, training, and expertise, right here in Canada.
Our dedication to training comes from a founding principle that we’ve always held close to heart: collaboration in pursuit of the best possible science. We pride ourselves on being a training ground for diverse and multidisciplinary scientific programs – and we are happy to share our technology and expertise to support other large-scale research projects around the world. Despite our relatively small size, TRIUMF continues to be Canada’s hub for cultivating world-class knowledge in nuclear and particle physics, nuclear medicine, accelerator and detector technology, as well as a host of other disciplines.
A hotspot for new ideas that bring science to life
Our lab has a long history of applying its science to innovations that benefit Canada and the world.
Medical isotopes, often derived from nuclear reactors and critical for diagnostic imaging and therapy, can now be produced sustainably in local hospitals using medical cyclotrons equipped with TRIUMF-developed technology. And as the Advanced Rare IsotopE Laboratory (ARIEL) comes online, more of these medical isotopes will soon be available, in both variety and volume.
TRIUMF’s beamlines also play an important role in a particular form of cancer treatment: radiotherapy for ocular melanomas. From our main cyclotron, a narrow stream of protons can be siphoned, focused, and targeted to bombard a tumour within the eye. As Canada’s only proton therapy centre, TRIUMF works closely with the BC Cancer Agency and the UBC Eye Care Centre to leverage accelerator science in service of Canadians suffering from this disease.
Canada’s neighbourhood subatomic physics lab
TRIUMF has made science come alive for tens of thousands of citizens, both locally and globally. Our tours program, which welcomes upwards of 6000 guests per year, reveals a world of super-fast particles and one-of-a-kind detectors. We take our science on the road to community festivals and science events, rain or shine. Through our arts and culture programming, we explore the intersections between art and physics and uncover the magic of particle acceleration for all to engage with creatively. And for those seeking answers about the universe, we host free public lectures that feature research topics at TRIUMF and initiatives from other labs around the world. Together with other organisations in our neighbourhood, across Canada, and around the world, we work to fan the spark of curiosity into a flame.
Our community extends far beyond our walls. It encompasses not only the scientists, engineers, technicians, tradespeople, students, and administrative staff who work onsite, but also the global scientific community, as well as all the people and institutions with whom we engage as we connect TRIUMF with the world.