James Pinfold, PhD, FRSC

Professor, Faculty of Science - Physics Admin


Professor, Faculty of Science - Physics Admin
(780) 492-2498
2-099 Centennial Ctr For Interdisciplinary SCS II
11335 Saskatchewan Drive NW
T6G 2H5




  • 1977 - PhD  University College London: Thesis written on the discovery of neutral currents
  • 1972 - BSc (Hons) 1972, Royal College of Science,  Imperial College of Science & Technology, London, England
  • 1972 - Associate of the Royal College of Science (A.R.C.S.)
  • 2016 & on  - Distinguished University Professor, University Professor
  • 1996-2016 - Professor of Physics, University of Alberta
  • 2005 & on  - Visiting Professor at King's College London, England
  • 1995-2004 - Director of the Centre for Subatomic Research
  • 1992-1996 - Associate Professor University of Alberta
  • 1989-1992 - Associate Professor Weizmann Institute of Science, Israel
  • 1977-1989 - RA ans SRA positions  at CERN in Switzerland, and Fermilab, near Chicago
  • 2000 & on -  Spokesman for the MoEDAL Experiment, at CERN's Large Hadron Collider (LHC)
  • 2004-2010 - Co-spokesman for the SLIM Experiment at Mt Chacaltaya, Bolivia
  • 2000-2002 - Deputy Spokesman for ATLAS-Canada, Canada (2000-2002).
  • 1987-1992 - Spokesman of the MODAL Experiment at CERN's  Large Electron Positron Collider (LEP)
  • 1987-1988 - Spokesman for the WA88 Experiment on the CERN PS, Switzerland


  • 2017-2018 - ATLAS-AFP - Upgrade Coordinator
  • 2016-2017 - Deputy Leader - ATLAS-LHC Forward Protons Project
  • 2005-2008 - Leader of the ATLAS-LHC  LUCID (Luminosity from Cerenkov Integrating Detector) project
  • 1999-2004 -  Convener of the ATLAS-LHC PESA (Physics and Event Selection Architecture) Jet/Missing-energy/Tau Algorithms Group. This PESA group is responsible for the physics algorithms for the High Level Trigger.
  • 1999-2003 - Convener of the ATLAS-LHC Jet/Tau/Missiing-energy Joint Performance Group. Jets & Missing energy are key
    physics signatures at LHC energies.
  • 1999-2003 - Convener of the LAr Jet/Tau/Missing-energy Performance Group studying calorimetric measurements of
    Jets and Missing energy and their impact key physics topics in ATLAS-LHC
  • 2000-2003 - Spokesman of the CANALTA (Canadian Time Time Coincidence Arrays) Collaboration: involving the 6 Canadian  Universities.
    The project aim was to deploy a national network of sparse cosmic ray air showers arrays.
  • 1996-1998 - Leader of the ATLAS-LHC HEC (Hadronic Endcap Calorimeter) Absorber Plate Production Project. A major detector construction project for ATLAS
  • 1992-1996 -  Leader of the ATLAS-Alberta LAr (Liquid Argon) contend Readout Project team that designed and tested a prototype frontend LAr calorimetry readout and designed and fabricated the controller chip for the FE readout
  • 1994-1998 - Initiator and a Leader of the OPAL TE (Tile Endcap) Detector Project. The Universities of Alberta and Maryland,
    University College London and CERN collaborated in the design and installation of a thin large area scintillating tile detector (TE) in the OPAL endcap region
  • 1992-1999: - Leader of the OPAL Neural Net Based Higgs Search Group, in which I pioneered on OPAL a neural network based Higgs-boson analysis in the prime 4-jet search channel. We contributed to the main LEP1/LEP1.5 analyses
  • 1989-1993 - Leader of the Monopole Search Detector and Trigger Project to install a dedicated monopole detector and trigger for OPAL.
  • 1989-1993 -  Leader of the Monopole Search Detector & Trigger Project to install a dedicated monopole detector & trigger for OPAL.
  • 1987-1989 - Responsible for the HV design and HV Installation of the OPAL Vertex Chamber.
  • 1972-1977: Leader of the search for leptonic neutral currents using Gargamelle data at University College London as part of the Gargamelle collaboration we subsequently discovered several leptonic neutral current events - the first clear evidence for Electroweak unification.


  • 2018 - Received the Killam Prize in Natural Sciences from the Canada Council for the Arts.
  • 2016 - Appointed Distinguished University Professor, University of Alberta.
  • 2015 - J. Gordin Kaplan Award for Excellence in Research, University of Alberta.
  • 2013 - Elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada (FRSC)
  • 2013 - Killam Annual  Professorship, University of Alberta
  • 2013 - European Physical Society Medal for the discovery of the Higgs boson
  • 2010 - Teaching & Learning Enhancement Fund Award - for undergraduate research initiatives,   Provost’s Office University of Alberta
  • 2009 - European Physics Society High Medal Awarded to the Gargamelle Collaboration for the discovery of Weak Neutral Currents (My thesis topic as a member of the discovery team).
  • 2009 - McCalla Professorship, University of Alberta
  • 2008 - Leverhulme Foundation Award (UK)
  • 2007 - AsTECH (Alberta Science & Technology Leadership Foundation)    Award- Awarded for the ALTA project for the world’s first educational cosmic ray array project for involving high school children in fundamental research
  • 1972 -  Associateship of the Royal College of Science (ARCS), Imperial College London, England



The following statistics on my authored and co-authored publications as of April 26th 2017 garnered from the INSPIRE database curated by CERN in Switzerland, DESY in Germany, Fermilab In the USA (near Chicago) and SLAC at Stanford in the USA).

  • Total number of citeable papers produced:  1,283 
  • Total number of citations: 112,719 
  • Average citations per paper: 87.9
  • H-index:  149
  • Number of papers with 500 citations or more: 24   
  • Number of papers with 250-499 citations: 35  
  • Number of papers with 100-249 citations: 205   
  • Number of papers  with 50-99 citations: 281
  • Number of papers with 10-49 citations: 531
  • Number of papers with 1-9 citations: 160
  • Number of papers with 0 citations: 47


Invited Talks: To date I have given over 220 invited talks mostly at international venues


  • 2017-2018:- Member of the International Advisory Committee for the 20th International Symposium on Very High Energy Cosmic Ray Interactions (ISVHECRI), Nagoya University, Japan
  • 2016-17:- Organization of working group on  "Collider Physics and the Cosmos" Galileo Galilei Institute  (GGI) for Theoretical Physics, workshop in Florence, Italy
  • 2015-2016:- Co-organizer of  MoEDAL-LHC contribution to the Royal Society Summer Exhibition Show in London
  • 2011, 2012, 2013, 2015:-  International Advisory Committee & Session Organizer: ICATPP Conference on Astroparticle, Particle, Space Physics & Detectors for Physics Apps, Como, Italy
  • 2014:- Member of the International Advisory Committee for the 18th International Symposium on Very High Energy Cosmic Ray Interactions (ISVHECRI), CERN, Switzerland
  • 2013:-  Member of the International Advisory Committee for the 2nd International conference on QCD and Hadron Physics, Lanzhou, China (2013)
  • 2012, 2013, 2015,2016:-  Principal Organizer: The 1st & 2nd MoEDAL Collaboration Meetings at CERN and various other European venues.
  • 2002, 2003, 2005:-  Invited Scientist, International School of Sub-Nuclear Physics , Ettore Majorana Centre, Erice, Sicily.
  • 2002:- Organizing Committee, ATLAS/Max-Planck-Munich Ringberg Workshop, Germany
  • 1993-1999:- Editor and Organizer: The Lake Louise Winter Institute, Alberta, Canada.






My lifetime research program in particle physics involved the establishment and subsequent testing of the Standard Model of Particle Physics that forms our description of nature at its most fundamental, quantum, level. To date I have been a leader in four major advances in my field - the discovery of neutral currents, the first observation of charm particle production, the discovery that there are three types of light neutrino, and, the discovery of the Higgs boson. This body of work was key to establishing the Standard Model as the predominant theory of matter.

My emphasis today is as part of the worldwide effort to reveal the theory that will supersede the Standard Model, by searching for new physics at the high-energy frontier. In this arena I was a founding member of two major experiments - OPAL  (1989) and ATLAS  (1992) - at the European Centre for Nuclear Research (CERN) and have led three other international particle physics experiments. For example, in 1987 I became the youngest ever leader of an international CERN collider experiment, MODAL , searching for physics beyond the Standard Model. I am now leading the international MoEDAL  experiment that started data taking at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) in 2015.

At the cosmic frontier I co-led from (1998-2010) the SLIM  experiment that was conducted at the world’s highest altitude laboratory on Mt Chacaltya in Bolivia; and I have proposed a new detector array for the IceCube experiment in Antarctica, a prototype of which is currently under test. Also, I am currently leading the planning stage for a very large area (40,000 sqm) experiment called Cosmic-MoEDAL to be deployed at high altitude on Tenerife in the Canarie Islands to search for remnants from the birth of the universe. My work at the cosmic frontier is now an important part of my research program to study nature at the highest energies, only ever seen before at the birth of the universe a fraction of a second after the Big Bang, leading to profound insights into the nature of the early universe.


Discovery Papers (3)

  • 2012 - Discovery of the Higgs Boson:  G. Add, J. L. Pinfold et al., “Observation of a new particle in the search for the Standard Model Higgs boson with the ATLAS detector at the LHC”. ATLAS Collaboration, Physics Letters B716 (2012) 1-29. Cited by 5574 papers. I was a founding member of the ATLAS experiment at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) in CERN Switzerland and made several leading contributions to the ATLAS detector and to the assessment of its physics performance. The particle we have discovered is the Higgs boson. The Higgs field, of which the Higgs boson is the quantum, is responsible for the generation of mass in the universe just after the Big Bang. The discovery of the Higgs ranks in importance with that of the electron. Peter Higgs received a Nobel prize in 2013 as a result of this discovery.
  • 2006 - The Discovery that there are only 3 Light Neutrinos: M. Akrawy, J. Pinfold et al. “Precision Electroweak Measurements on the Z Resonance”, ALEPH, DELPHI, L3, OPAL, SLD Electroweak Working Groups. Phys. Rept. 427 (2006) 530. Cited by 1323 papers. I was a founding and leading member of the OPAL experiment. I made key contributions to 3 of OPAL’s main detector systems and led several analysis efforts testing the Standard Model. The importance of this discovery was as a key confirmation of the generational structure of the Standard Model that has crucial implications for particle physics, astrophysics and cosmology.
  • 1973 - Discovery of Neutral Currents:  F. J. Hasert, J. L. Pinfold et al., Gargamelle Collaboration, “Search For Elastic Muon-neutrino Electron Scattering”, Physics Letters B46 (1973) 121-124. Cited by 753 papers. As a PhD student at University College London I was a leading member of the small research team - part of CERN’s Gargamelle experiment - that discovered the neutral current process, the first hard evidence for the unification of the electromagnetic and weak fundamental forces - a central pillar of the Standard Model. The death of the leader of the experiment just after this discovery precluded the Noble Prize expected for this experiment

First Observations (2)

  •  First Observation of Exclusive Production at a Hadron Collider: T. Aaltonen, J. L. Pinfold et al., "Observation of exclusive charmonium production and γ+γ to μ+μ− in pp¯ collisions at s√=1.96 TeV",  CDF Collaboration, Phys. Rev. Lett. 102 (2009). Cited 199 times. I co-led a small team that observed for the first time at a hadron collider the presence of exclusive interactions i.e. interactions where the interaction protons remain intact. These observations where used to test the predictions of various theoretical approaches describing this phenomena. As a result the predictions of the Durham Group in the UK were recognized as the most predictive thus affirming their estimates of exclusive production of the Standard Model Higgs boson.

  • First Observation of a Charmed Particle(?):  H. Deden, J. L. Pinfold  et al., Gargamelle Collaboration, "Strange Particle Production and Charmed Particle Search in the Gargamelle Neutrino Experiment",  Phys.Lett. 58B (1975) 361-366. Cited  139 times. This is arguably the first observation of a charmed particle. As a graduate student I was the leader of the analysis effort at UCL that uncovered this single candidate albeit with low background level.

Experiments Founded (3)

  • 2009 - Technical Design Report of the MoEDAL Experiment at the LHC, J. L. Pinfold, The MoEDAL Collaboration  Jun 8, 2009. 76 pp. CERN-LHCC-2009-006, MoEDAL-TDR-00.  Cited 97 times. In 2010  the MoEDAL experiment at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) was unanimously approved by CERN's Research Board to start data taking in 2015. The MoEDAL Collaboration consists of some 65 physicists from 26 institutes from around the world. MoEDAL is a pioneering experiment designed to search for highly ionizing avatars of new physics such as magnetic monopoles or massive (pseudo-)stable charged particles. Its groundbreaking physics program defines over 30 scenarios that yield potentially revolutionary insights into such foundational questions as: are there extra dimensions or new symmetries; what is the mechanism for the generation of mass; does magnetic charge exist; what is the nature of dark matter; and, how did the big-bang develop.  MoEDAL's purpose is to meet such far-reaching challenges at the frontier of the field.The innovative MoEDAL detector employs unconventional methodologies tuned to the prospect of discovery physics. The largely passive MoEDAL detector, deployed at Point 8 on the LHC ring, has a dual nature. First, it acts like a giant camera, comprised of nuclear track detectors - analyzed offline by ultra fast scanning microscopes - sensitive only to new physics.  Second, it is uniquely able to trap the particle messengers of physics beyond the Standard Model for further study.  MoEDAL's radiation environment is monitored by a state-of-the-art real-time TimePix pixel detector array. I proposed, design and led the construction of the MoEDAL detector and  I am now the spokesperson for MoEDAL.
  • 2008 - The ATLAS Experiment at the CERN Large Hadron Collider, G. Aad, J. L. Pinfold et al., ATLAS Collaboration, JINST 3 (2008) S08003 DOI: 10.1088/1748-0221/3/08/S08003. Cited 5483 times. The experiment is designed to take advantage of the unprecedented energy available at the LHC and observe phenomena that involve highly massive particles which were not observable using earlier lower-energy accelerators. It is hoped that it will shed light on new theories of particle physics beyond the Standard Model. It was one of the two LHC experiments involved in the discovery of the Higgs boson in July 2012.  I played a leading role in the construction of the ATLAS detector and in the assessment of its physics capabilities. In particular: leading the construction of the  ATLAS hadronic endcap calorimeter; taking an important part of the design and prototyping of the high level trigger farms for ATLAS; leading the project to design, construct and install  the ATLAS luminosity monitor (LUCID);  as  a deputy leader of the ATLAS Forward Protons (AF) project currently installing forward spectrometers to perform measuremenst of wto photon and diffractive physics.
  • 1991 - The OPAL Detector at LEP, K Ahmet, J. L. Pinfold et al., OPAL Collaboration,  Nucl. Instrum. Meth. A305 (1991) 275-319 CERN-PPE-90-114 DOI: 10.1016/0168-9002(91) 90547-4. Cited 766 times. OPAL was one of the major experiments at CERN's LEP. OPAL studied particles and their interactions by collecting and analysing electron-positron collision events at LEP, the Large Electron-Positron collider. LEP was the largest particle accelerator in the world. In Phase 1 ( 1989-1995) OPAL accumulated millions of these Z events for high-precision measurements. In LEP's second phase from 1996 to 2000, the collider's collision energy was increased to make pairs of W bosons, and to search for possible new particles and new physics. I was a founding member of the OPAL experiment and led the Alberta group into the experiment in 1992.  I played a major role in the  construction of the OPAL detector and in the analysis of OPAL results. In particular, I: played an major role in the design, testing and installation of the OPAL vertex chamber; co- led the installation of the OPAL Tile Endcap trigger detector; lead the design, construction and installation of the OPAL highly-ionizing particle detector and trigger; and, led the project to design, construct and install the precision voltage supply and control for the OPAL silicon vertex detector.

Advancing the Standard Model

2003 - Search for the Standard Model Higgs Boson at LEP: R. Barate, J. L. Pinfold et al., LEP (Large Electron Positron collider at CERN in Switzerland) Working Group for Higgs Boson Searches, ALEPH, DELPHI, L3 and OPAL, Phys. Lett. B565 (2003) 61-75. Cited 2306 times. I was a founding and leading member of the OPAL experiment. I made key contributions to three of OPAL’s detector systems and led several analysis efforts including that of the Higgs boson search using neural networks. The importance of this search is that when combined with the precision measurements of the Standard Model made by OPAL, it defined the search region for the Higgs boson subsequently discovered at the LHC.

1990 - Defining the Properties of the Heavy Quark Sector of the Standard Model:  J. C Anjos, J. L. Pinfold et al., E691 Collaboration, Measurement of the Form factors in the Decay D+ -->anti-K*0+ positron + electron neutrino”, Phys. Rev. Lett., 65 (1990) 2630. Cited 250 times. As a young RA on the E691 Experiment at Fermilab in the USA. I made major contributions to the design, setup, running and analysis of the E691 experiment that made major contributions to our understanding of the 2nd generation of quarks of the Standard Model. This paper was extremely useful in the determination of a key element of the Standard Model’s quark sector.



Excellent teaching should challenge students and take them out of their comfort zone - education can change one’s view of the world. I believe that the best indication of teaching excellence provides a new approach or structure that inspires and has a positive motivational effect upon the student – this, in addition to a concentration on individual learning modules coupled with a clear and well-organized transmission of course material.

My philosophy of education is simple. To attract, excite and enthuse students so that they become self motivated exemplars of lifelong learning. In my opinion, this goal is best achieved in a hands-on one-on-one way or with as small a “motivator” to student ratio as possible, and as early as possible, in the student’s education. The method I have developed to achieve this end is to engage students through mentorship and significant research activities in order to inspire achievement and confidence. In this way we can create an outstanding student experience that can pay huge dividends in the student’s future career. Doing this as early as possible creates an additional “leverage” effect to further enhance the student’s career trajectory.

I endorse Einstein’s adage: “Imagination is more important than knowledge”. Especially in the sense that if the student’s imagination is engaged they will independently seek knowledge through learning and, most importantly, research. Proven ways to generate the required sense of wonder is to actively and directly involve students at the high school, undergraduate and graduate levels in the enthrallment and excitement of fundamental research. I have chosen to use “Big Science” to achieve this goal, provide a global perspective and enhance my engagement with students in the classroom, the lab, or in the field. The excellence of this approach to teaching and learning has been recognized at the university, provincial, national and international level and is discussed in the next section.


My major awards relating to my teaching  and teaching philosophy are listed here:

  • Distinguished University Professorship [2016  ongoing]: "The title of Distinguished University Professor (DUP) and Distinguished University Professor Emeritus (DUP) is one of the highest honours this University can bestow on a member of its academic staff. The University awards the title only to those individuals who have achieved outstanding distinction and scholarship in each of the areas of research,
    teaching, and service to the academy and the community at large."
  • Royal Society of London Summer [2015] Exhibition and Spring [2016] Awards: the MoEDAL-LHC experiment I lead has a world first in making a high school a full member of the experimental collaboration. We are also involving schools in the analysis of the “big science” LHC experiment via a citizen science “Zooinverse Interface” (previously used to involve members of the public in classifying galaxies). This is another world first. This outreach/teaching profile and cutting edge fundamental physics program was recognized by the Royal Society through an invite to exhibit in their prestigious summer and spring shows in Central London.
  • Killam Professorship [2013]: Primary criteria for award: A record of outstanding scholarship and teaching over three or more years as evidenced by any or all of research, publications, creative activities, presented papers, graduate student supervision and courses taught.
  • ASTECH Excellence in Science and Technology Public Awareness Prize [2007] for pioneering work in science education through high school student involvement in fundamental research - Awarded by the Alberta Science and Technology Leadership Foundation.
  • McCALLA Professorship [2009] awarded using the following criteria: recipients, nominated by their Faculty, are outstanding academics who have made significant contributions to their field of research, teaching and learning. The award provides funding for research and teaching initiatives. Awarded by the UofA Provost.
  • Teaching and Learning Enhancement Fund Award (TLEF) [2010]: for the FUTURA (FUndamenTal Undergraduate (Big Science) Research in Alberta) project. Criteria are derived from the following statement: “In direct support of Dare to Discover: A Vision for a Great University and the learning, discovery and citizenship cornerstones, the TLEF was created to improve teaching and learning effectiveness. Applications are invited from all University of Alberta instructors who seek innovative ways of creating exceptional learning experiences and environments. This fund supports a diverse range of initiatives specifically focused on creating exceptional and life changing university experiences for students. Awarded by the Provost of the University of Alberta.”
  • Leverhulme Visiting Professorship the over-riding criteria for this award are first the academic standing and achievements of the visitor in terms of research and teaching, and secondly the ability of the receiving institution to benefit from the imported skills and expertise - Awarded by the Leverhulme Trust, UK.
  • NSERC PromoScience Award for the ICARUS project, using the ALTA Cosmic Ray Educational Array in Alberta, is unique in that it involves Alberta schools/colleges and the local community in cutting edge research and science education - Awarded by the Natural Science and Engineering Research Council (NSERC).
  • Invited Scientist International School of Subnuclear Physics at Erice, Majorana Centre, Sicily [2005, 2006,2008] - to foster the brightest young minds in theoretical and experimental particle physics - Inviting institute, the Ettore Majorana Foundation and Centre for Scientific Culture.


Projects for Graduate Students

(Please click on above link)


PHYS 294 - General Physics Laboratory

Introduction to experimental physics through select, classic experiments in physics from the 19th through 21st centuries performed using contemporary instrumentation when possible. Introduction to the statistical treatment of uncertainties, and analysis and graphing of experimental data with open-source scientific software. Skill development in written and oral presentation of laboratory results. Prerequisites: MATH 100 or 113 or 114 or 117 or 134 or 144 or 154; one of PHYS 124, PHYS 144, or EN PH 131; and one of PHYS 126, PHYS 146 or PHYS 130. Note: PHYS 294 will not count towards degree credit for specialization or Honors programs offered by the physics department (including physics, geophysics, astrophysics and mathematical physics). Students enrolled in physics specialization or Honors programs are required to take PHYS 295 instead.

Fall Term 2022

PHYS 574 - Experimental Methods in Physics

Statistics and data analysis: S/N considerations; interactions of photons, neutrons, and charged particles with matter; detectors; vacuum technology. Other topics to be selected according to students' needs and instructor's preference.

Winter Term 2023

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