Carl E. Svensson

Carl Svensson

Professor and Canada Research Chair (Tier 1) in Gamma-Ray Spectroscopy and Rare Isotope Physics

Contact Information

Telephone: 519-824-4120 x54573


Office: MacN 221

Online: Nuclear Physics Group


I obtained my Honours B.Sc. in Physics in 1995 from McMaster University in Hamilton, ON, Canada.  I completed my Ph.D. in Physics in 1998, also from McMaster University. From 1999 to 2000, I was a post-doctoral fellow in the Nuclear Science Division at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) in Berkeley, CA, U.S.A.

Professional Experience

After completing my postdoctoral research at LBNL, I joined the Department of Physics at the University of Guelph as an Assistant Professor in January 2001.  I was tenured in 2003 and promoted to Associate Professor in 2004. I was promoted to Professor in 2007.

Professional Activities & Awards

I am a referee for numerous international research journals, and have reviewed funding applications for the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), the United States Department of Energy (DOE), the United Kingdom Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) and the Research Council of Norway.  I served on NSERC’s Long-Range (2006-2016) Planning Committee for Subatomic Physics in Canada and on the Search Committees for the Director of TRIUMF, Canada’s national laboratory for nuclear and particle physics, in both 2006 and 2013-14.  I have served on numerous NSERC and U.S. DOE technical review committees, the NSERC Subatomic Physics Evaluation Section, the TRIUMF Director’s Policy and Planning Advisory Committee (PPAC), and the Senate of the University of Guelph. I am currently the Chair of the SNOLAB Board of Directors.

I am a recipient of the John Charles Polanyi Prize in Physics (2001) from the Government of Ontario, a Research Innovation Award (2002) from the Research Corporation in Arizona, U.S.A., and a Premier’s Research Excellence Award (2002) from the Ontario Ministry of Research and Innovation.  I received a Presidential Distinguished Professor Award (2002-04) from the University of Guelph, and was the University of Guelph Research Chair in Subatomic Physics from 2003 to 2009.  In 2008, I was awarded the Herzberg Medal of the Canadian Association of Physicists, and in 2009 an E.W.R. Steacie Memorial Fellowship from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC). I currently (2010-present) hold a Tier I Canada Research Chair in Gamma-Ray Spectroscopy and Rare Isotope Physics.

Research Activities

My research uses the atomic nucleus as a laboratory for studying a variety of physics topics, ranging from the microscopic description of collective excitation modes in finite quantum systems, to precision tests of the electroweak Standard Model of particle physics and the search for new physics beyond it. These studies are performed with state-of-the-art multi-detector arrays of high-purity germanium (HPGe) crystals to detect the energetic light, or gamma-rays, emitted by the atomic nucleus. These detection systems include the TRIUMF-ISAC Gamma-Ray Escape Suppressed Spectrometer (TIGRESS), which was constructed through an $8M grant received from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) in 2003.  I am also the Project Leader for Gamma-Ray Infrastructure For Fundamental Investigations of Nuclei (GRIFFIN), an advanced new high-efficiency $8.9 M gamma-ray spectrometer funded jointly by the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI), TRIUMF and the University of Guelph.  My group, together with our national and international collaborators, operate these large gamma-ray spectrometers at the Isotope Separator and Accelerator (ISAC) radioactive ion beam facility at the TRIUMF laboratory in Vancouver, the world’s highest power on-line isotope separator facility. Analysis of the data from these experiments is carried out in-house at the University of Guelph. My recent and current research activities include:

  • Studies of the evolution of nuclear shell structure in rare isotopes through decay and in-beam gamma-ray spectroscopy at ISAC. These measurements provide new insights into the behaviour of the complex nuclear quantum many-body system and deepen our understanding of the processes by which the chemical elements have been, and continue to be, synthesized in explosions of ancient stars.
  • High-precision lifetime and branching ratio measurements for a special class of nuclear transformations known as superallowed Fermi beta decays. These measurements improve our knowledge of the breaking of an approximate symmetry of the strong nuclear force known as isospin caused by Coulomb and charge-dependent forces in the nucleus.  They thus provide demanding tests of our current understanding of the fundamental interactions of the basic building block of nature embodied in the Standard Model of particle physics.

For more details on these research activities and others, please see our group’s research page at