The winner of the Science Safari contest visits Perimeter and the Large Hadron Collider at CERN.

For Lori Donald, “it was a chance to visit the future.”

Ms. Donald won the grand prize in Perimeter’s Science Safari contest, which was held in conjunction with the 2012 Massey Lectures given by Perimeter Director Neil Turok. Last October, Turok travelled from coast to coast, giving five lectures to packed houses in major Canadian cities. The lectures were recorded and broadcast on CBC Radio One’s IDEAS program and published in a best-selling book, The Universe Within: From Quantum To Cosmos. All in all, more than a million people caught at least some of the lectures.

Perimeter’s Educational Outreach team worked hard to spread the excitement of the Masseys further, hosting a special kick-off event online, visiting each host city before the local lecture to provide presentations to students, and sponsoring the Science Safari contest, which gave away books and Massey Lecture tickets. The Grand Prize in this contest was a trip to see science “in the wild,” as it were, at Perimeter and at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, near Geneva, Switzerland.

Ms. Donald, who works in human resources at the University of British Columbia, was the perfect person to take this Science Safari. “I’m absolutely thrilled,” she said during her recent visit to Perimeter. “When I tell other people I won, they [hear] ‘Switzerland,’ and they think I just won a trip. But I am so excited – I get to see the Large Hadron Collider. I’m fascinated by the inner workings of the universe. I keep seeing these documentaries on, say, quantum physics, and how strangely things work at the quantum level. Well, we are made of these quantum particles, so why do things work at our level so differently than the matter from which we’re composed?”

Before heading to CERN, Ms. Donald spent two days at Perimeter, where she lunched with scientists, sat in on a colloquium on gravitational wave physics, and attended a public lecture on the joys of calculus.

“What’s wonderful is that scientists will admit that they don’t know things,” Ms. Donald said. “I have a law background and lawyers never admit that they don’t know, so it’s refreshing. I was just talking to Dr. Turok about this: how people sometimes get frustrated with scientists, especially theorists, because every few years they come out with something new. People say, ‘You said that, and now you say this – you don’t know what you’re talking about.’ But the truth is we just know more now. It’s amazing – it’s a measure of such exciting progress.”

“I love how Perimeter has public outreach, to dispel the idea that it’s pie in the sky, a bunch of people sitting around playing with equations all day for no good reason. These people are trying to understand the universe – who knows where that will take us?”

Perimeter congratulates Ms. Donald and thanks all those who entered the Science Safari contest. Stay tuned for our next major public festival – BrainSTEM: Your Future is Now – coming up in the first week of October.


About Perimeter Institute

Perimeter Institute is the world’s largest research hub devoted to theoretical physics. The independent Institute was founded in 1999 to foster breakthroughs in the fundamental understanding of our universe, from the smallest particles to the entire cosmos. Research at Perimeter is motivated by the understanding that fundamental science advances human knowledge and catalyzes innovation, and that today’s theoretical physics is tomorrow’s technology. Located in the Region of Waterloo, the not-for-profit Institute is a unique public-private endeavour, including the Governments of Ontario and Canada, that enables cutting-edge research, trains the next generation of scientific pioneers, and shares the power of physics through award-winning educational outreach and public engagement.

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