Dr. Gary Hinshaw

Dr. Gary Hinshaw

The potential is yours.

When dealing with our world’s most difficult problems, there are two choices: Either giving up and admitting defeat, or believing in our potential to shape a different future. That choice is at the heart of UBC’s latest national advertising campaign, called ‘The potential is yours.

Meet Dr. Gary Hinshaw, Professor of Astronomy & Astrophysics and recipient of the 2018 Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics, who is featured in the campaign.

What are you currently researching or working on?

A: I’m a member of a team that is building a new radio telescope in the Okanagan called CHIME (the Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment). CHIME is designed to make the largest map of the universe ever attempted. The data from this map will allow us to determine the expansion history of the universe and learn more about the substance, called dark energy, that is causing the expansion of the universe to speed up over time.

I have long been interested in the ‘big questions’ facing humanity: How did the universe begin? How will it end?

— Dr. Gary Hinshaw
What drew you to your field of study?

A: I have long been interested in the ‘big questions’ facing humanity: How did the universe begin? How will it end? Cosmology is the study of the entire universe from the perspective of physics. This field of study brings the rigorous methodology of the physical sciences to some of the big questions we all ask.

What are some challenges related to your field that you’re hoping to help solve?

A: Nature has chosen to hide 96 per cent of all matter and energy in our universe in the form of dark matter and dark energy. Indeed, the matter identified in the periodic table comprises only 4 per cent of the total energy density in the universe. Evidence for the ‘dark sector’ comes primarily from cosmology, but the evidence is subtle and requires painstaking theoretical and observational work to discern. I’m an observer, and it is very difficult to perform precision measurements on cosmological scales. The signals we seek to measure are tiny, and they are often confused by other signals that can mask the information we’re after. It takes careful experiment design and painstaking data analysis to reveal this information.

How does UBC support you in realizing your greatest potential?

A: UBC has been very supportive of cosmological research through its hiring practices and in its support of grant applications. For example, the CHIME experiment was successful in gaining funding from the Canada Foundation for Innovation after passing a rigorous internal review process at UBC. We are very grateful for this support!

See Dr. Gary Hinshaw in the campaign

‘The potential is yours’ campaign highlights the importance of UBC’s research and teaching mission, and demonstrates how the university is helping to address society’s largest challenges.