Devoting his career to advancing physics research has earned professor emeritus Gordon Drake a 2023 Fellowship with the Canadian Association of Physicists.
It is the second year the association is awarding fellowships; in the first year, only recent Nobel Prize winners Donna Strickland and Art McDonald were so honoured.
The fellowship program recognizes members who have made significant contributions to the Canadian physics community, research, in teaching, in the advancement of technology, or in service to the association.
“It all starts with physics,” says Dr. Drake. “From medical applications such as MRIs and PET scans to semi-conductors, lasers, and the internet — people don’t realize it all starts in physics labs and that is the importance of pure research.”
When he retired in 2019, Drake’s career spanned almost five decades at the University of Windsor and the publication of at least 250 papers and journal articles. He continues to make research contributions and is currently applying to renew his Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) grant.
The fellowship recognizes Drake’s development of new measurement tools through combined application of both high-precision theory and experiment to atoms.
“We interact with labs around the world and then we compare our calculations from first principles with lab measurements, looking for discrepancies and an indication of new physics,” he says.
“You need theory and experimentation from the ongoing development of laser power and versatility applied to high-precision measurements and the development of computational technology which allows us to perform companion calculations.”
Drake’s has also been passionate about training the next generation of physicists. Over the past 50 years, he has had nearly 60 undergraduate and graduate students as well as post-doctoral fellows under his tutelage and he continues to support students in his lab.
“These are the people who are leading the way in developing new ideas, new techniques, and new discoveries in physics for our modern way of life.”
Physics department head Steven Rehse says becoming a CAP Fellow is one of the highest honours that a Canadian physicist can aspire to. He adds it is both well-deserved and not surprising for it to be bestowed on one of the department’s highest profile faculty members.
“It is reflective of a lifetime of academic and scientific achievement, as well as devoted service to advancing the profession of physics in Canada,” says Dr. Rehse.
“As his citation stated, he has not only demonstrated internationally recognized research achievements at the highest level in the field of atomic physics, also his contributions to the profession are far too numerous to enumerate as they span decades of consistent service."
Drake was awarded the 1979 CAP Herzberg Medal, the 1994 CAP Medal for Lifetime Achievement in Physics, and the 2015 CAP Peter Kirby Medal. He served as president of the association 2000-01. In addition to his research activities, Drake was president of the Windsor University Faculty Association for two terms, physics department head for 15 years, and principal of Canterbury College from 2008 until 2023.