Meet the Prof - Paul Garrett

Posted on Friday, July 15th, 2022

Video opens with University of Guelph, Improve Life annimated logo. Transitions to Dr. Paul Garrett speaking outside on Johnston Green.

[Paul Garrett] - Very often the research that we do ends up leading to more questions or maybe a better way of saying it is to a deeper question. So we might solve one particular issue, one problem we're looking at in one nucleus, but then the insights we gain we then can ask 'Ah do we see the same pattern somewhere else', now that we think we understand this can we apply it to that?

Fades to black and opens again with Paul speaking outside. 

[Paul Garrett] - I'm Paul Garrett and I'm a professor of physics here at the University of Guelph. So my undergrad was in engineering at Queen's in Kingston.

Still image of Queen's campus appears on screen.

[Paul Garrett] - Following that I went to McMaster for a Master's in health physics and then a PhD in experimental nuclear physics.

Still image of McMaster campus appears on screen. Switches back to video of Paul speaking outside.

[Paul Garrett] - This was followed by post docs in Switzerland and in the US. I had a staff position at a laboratory in the US before coming to Guelph as a professor in 2004 and I've been here ever since.

Video switches to Paul and two grad students working on a large piece of equipment for detecting particles.

[Paul Garrett] - So my research is in nuclear structure physics and the basic thing that we're trying to answer is how do protons and neutrons, which make up the nucleus,

Video switches back to Paul outside talking and gesturing as he speaks.

[Paul Garrett] - how do they interact and how do they behave together inside of the nucleus. So the the picture I'd like to paint is you know imagine you're in this stadium full of fans and each individual fan in that stadium as they're watching the football game, the hockey game, uh whatever they're they're doing, they can do their own individual random motion. So that would be like an individual proton and neutron but then you know there's the wave that comes... we all love the wave... so that's a very collective thing where all the participants are acting together and we see this kind of motion in the nucleus as well and that's the main thing that I'm studying

Still image of the large detector equipment appears on screen. Video switches back to Paul speaking outside.

[Paul Garrett] - is this collective motion that involves many particles acting together in order to create.

Video switches to Paul seated in the lab working on small piece of for the detector. Video switches back to Paul outside.

[Paul Garrett] - Our research naturally has us making collaborations with people all over the world.

A series of still images of the detector and instruments appears on screen. Video switches back to Paul speaking outside. 

[Paul Garrett] - Each of us brings a different point of view, a different in-depth knowledge, about a particular aspect and this is what really drives the field forward then is all of these interactions with the different groups with different people. The experimental facilities that we use, these involve hundreds of people working to make the accelerators work.

Still image of a particle accelerator appears

[Paul Garrett] - So we use particle accelerators in our research

Video switches back to Paul outside and then to of Paul in the accelerator lab with students working on a large piece of equipment.

[Paul Garrett] -  and it involves then this huge team just to make the accelerators work, to keep that infrastructure running.

Video switches back to Paul outside. 

[Paul Garrett] - Most of our experiments that we do are at TRIUMF which is Canada's accelerator lab.

A still image of the equipemnt at the TRIUMF accelerator lab appears. 

[Paul Garrett] - But it's not only there,

Video switches back to Paul outside.

[Paul Garrett] - we also do experiments in Europe and in Warsaw in the Narrow in Italy, in Germany, Lenovo France

A series of still images of the various accelerators mentioned apear on screen. Video switches back to Paul outside.

[Paul Garrett] - and we've had some experiments in South Africa in Cape Town and we started a collaboration in order to take advantage of some unique facilities in Australia at Canberra. So it involves, you know, large groups of people which come together to focus on some particular question and then maybe disbanding to go work on another thing so it's a very fluid type of situation. So rather than only involving a dozen people all the time we might involve a dozen people in one particular measurement a different dozen in another measurement a different and so on. So we form these very wide networks of researchers from around the world.

Yeah so the opportunities that we provide people, and people I really should say is the main product of our research, our graduates go on to work at Chalk River you know to address issues that might be related to energy generation or national security issues. There's a lot of our graduates who end up in the field of medical physics, so especially with cancer therapies and so on but for individual students we have a such a wide breadth of the program that we try to fit individual skills and their interests into the project.

So there's some who come with naturally very strong computing background

A still image of a computer station appears on screen and then switches back to Paul outside.

[Paul Garrett] - then they'll get a more computational style of a project versus others who really want to build something.

Video switches to Paul working on accelerator with some grad students.

[Paul Garrett] -They want nuts, bolts, pipes, wires...

Video switches back to Paul outside.

[Paul Garrett] - much more mechanical or electrically inclined. Then they can physically build detectors. And then others who are extraordinarily strong in data analysis and interpretation. And the research projects, because we're involved in so many different collaborations there's usually a wide variety that we more or less will put on the table. It's like a buffet table and students can largely choose particular projects that they can work on so so they take ownership then of a project and especially at the PhD level often they're involved in proposing that at a facility. Performing the experiment, doing the analysis and then ultimately writing the publication afterwards. But even our undergraduate students we also have them leading publications.

So I absolutely loved my engineering background but at some point you want to move beyond just making something work and not necessarily caring why.

Video switches to Paul seated working on a small piece of equipment. Video switches back to Paul speaking outside.

[Paul Garrett] -I wanted to get at the at the 'why'. So something just a little bit deeper and I always had this long running interest in nuclear physics. One of the reasons I got into engineering was I had a strong interest in nuclear reactors.

Still image of a Nuclear reactor sign appears on screen and transitions to a still image of a reactor, then transitions back to Paul speaking outside.

[Paul Garrett] - I thought even even when I was a teenager eons ago at the time of the dinosaurs that this was the future of energy generation would be you know fission reactors at the time.

Series of still images of reactors appears and then transitions back to Paul outside.

[Paul Garrett] - Now people are talking about fusion reactors being potentially on the horizon and so my interest was always more coming from that physics or applications of physics background rather than just you know making a widget work.

So it wasn't a big transition to go from a pure engineering into into a physical science.

Video switches to main University of Guelph enterance with a large Gryphon statue and transitions to aerial views of campus.

[Paul Garrett] - What I really like about our program here is the people in our Department. They care about the students and that really comes through in almost everything that they do and because there's that deep level of caring about students that's a unifying theme for us as a department.

Video switches back to Paul speaking outside.

[Paul Garrett] - And we uh we we largely get along and we're very supportive of each other which is not always true in academic units. And I think that really then comes through to the students as well, that they know we care about what happens to them and where they're going. One of the big motivations for me to continue to do this research though, quite honestly, is the impact on people. And I mean that on an individual level you know. So the actual nature, you know the product of the research, you know addressing these questions of the structure of a nucleus almost becomes irrelevant for society as a whole but individual people, you know students who are drawn in to this, the training that they received, we are changing the path and direction of their life.

Video transitions from Paul to an aerial view of campus and the words "We are changing the path and direction of their life. - Paul Garrett" appears on screen. Video fades to black and an animated Guelph Phyiscs logo appears.


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