Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics

Coordinates: 43°27′55″N 80°31′41″W / 43.46535°N 80.52800°W / 43.46535; -80.52800
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Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics
TypeResearch institute

Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics (PI, Perimeter, PITP) is an independent research centre in foundational theoretical physics located in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada. It was founded in 1999.[2] The institute's founding and major benefactor is Canadian entrepreneur and philanthropist Mike Lazaridis.[3]

The original building, designed by Saucier + Perrotte,[4] opened in 2004[5] and was awarded a Governor General's Medal for Architecture in 2006.[6] The Stephen Hawking Centre, designed by Teeple Architects, was opened in 2011[7] and was LEED Silver certified in 2015.[8]

In addition to research, Perimeter also provides scientific training and educational outreach activities to the general public. This is done in part through Perimeter's Educational Outreach team.[9]


Inside the Perimeter Institute

In 1999, Howard Burton—who had a PhD in theoretical physics from the University of Waterloo—emailed Mike Lazaridis along with 20 CEOs in an attempt to leave his Wall Street job.[10]: 118  Lazaridis then pitched the idea of the Perimeter Institute to Burton as he wanted to use his BlackBerry wealth for a philanthropic endeavour.[10]: 118  Lazaridis' initial donation of $100 million was announced on October 23, 2000, believed to be the biggest private donation in Canadian history to that point.[11] Jim Balsille and Doug Fregin each donated $10 million.[10]: 119  The city of Waterloo offered four sites of land for free; Lazaridis chose the former site of the Waterloo Memorial Arena (near Uptown Waterloo).[10]: 120 

Research operations began in 2001, in a temporary site in a nearby post office.[10]: 120  Burton became the Institute's founding director.[10]: 116  The permanent building's construction finished in 2004.[10]: 120  The Ontario budget, announced in March 2006, included a commitment to provide $50 million in funding to PI from the Ministry of Research and Innovation.

In May 2008, Dr. Neil Turok, a cosmologist, was appointed as Perimeter Institute's director replacing Howard Burton.[12] Lazaridis donated a subsequent $50 million on June 4, 2008.[13] In November 2008, it was announced that physicist Stephen Hawking would take the position of Distinguished Visiting Research Chair, a visiting position, at the institute.[14][15]

Designed by Teeple Architects, a new 5,000 m2 (55,000 sq ft) expansion, the Stephen Hawking Centre at Perimeter Institute, was completed in September 2011.[16] The centre's grand opening was in September 2011 and included a video greeting from Hawking, who rarely traveled due to disability.[17] This was the first-ever Gold Seal-managed project in Ontario, it attained LEED Silver certification in 2015.[18][19]

On February 28, 2019, Dr. Robert Myers was appointed as the director of the Perimeter Institute, replacing Dr. Neil Turok.


The Institute was designed by Montréal-based architectural firm Saucier + Perrotte.[20] A concrete stairwell in the building's atrium was designed by Blackwell Engineers.[20] The Institute's front aluminum wall is black with small windows to represent a blackboard.[10]: 117  There are wooden fireplaces and blackboards throughout the building.[10]: 117  Writing for The Globe and Mail, architecture critic Lisa Rochon praised the Institute's "seamless connections" between the building's interior and exterior and said the building is about "the flow of light and the directions we can take".[20] Rochon described the building as modernism, and cited Tadao Ando as an influence.[20]


Perimeter's research encompasses nine fields:[21]


Perimeter Institute Recorded Seminar Archive (PIRSA)[edit]

An extensive, up-to-date archive of the institute's varied research activities is readily available to the public via the internet. The Perimeter Institute Recorded Seminar Archive (PIRSA),[22] is a permanent, free, searchable, and citable archive of recorded seminars, conferences, workshops and outreach events. Seminars with video and timed presentation materials can be accessed on-demand in Windows and Flash formats together with MP3 audio files and PDFs of the supporting materials. The PIRSA project is enlarged by the creation of SciTalks (See below).


After more than 13,000 talks uploaded to PIRSA, Perimeter Institute created in 2020 a new public video archive called SciTalks[23] with the support of the Simons Foundations. It is a meta-repository search tool of scientific talks beyond what is produced at PI and aims to "revolutionize the world of scholarly communication in the way that the arXiv has done for print scientific papers".[24] Apart from PIRSA's existing content, SciTalks indexes videos from other institutions, such as CERN, Simons Institute for the Theory of Computing, ICTP and ICTP-SAIFR.[25] As a meta-repository, SciTalks only stores metadata and links related to the videos, which are stored in other databases.

Educational outreach[edit]

Perimeter's educational outreach team's activities include a monthly public lecture series, a two-week summer camp for the world's top science students, a series of in-class resources, week-long professional development workshops for science teachers, cultural activities with local and international artists, an online archive of educational resources, an extensive network of science teachers to share content across Canada, and many other special events and science festivals contributing to physics outreach.[26][27] Perimeter Institute operates an international outreach program.

The annual EinsteinPlus[28] summer school for high school physics teachers is held for one week each summer. The International Summer School for Young Physicists (ISSYP) is a physics camp for high school students.[29][30] It brings approximately 20 Canadian students and 20 International students aged 16 – 18 to Perimeter for two weeks each year.[31]

Public lectures series[edit]

Perimeter Institute has welcomed a number of very prominent scientists to deliver lectures on a wide variety of subjects.[32] Lecturers have included: Freeman Dyson, Gerard ‘t Hooft, Jay Ingram, Seth Lloyd, Jay Melosh, Sir Roger Penrose, Michael Peskin, Leonard Susskind, Frank Wilczek and Anton Zeilinger.[33]

BrainSTEM: Your Future is Now[edit]

This festival connected technological innovations to the scientific breakthroughs that make them possible. The festival, held September 30 to October 6, 2013, featured science-centre styled exhibits, special presentations, public lectures, Science in the Club events and insider-tours of the Perimeter Institute. Webcast Public Lectures featured James Grime, Ray Laflamme and Lucy Hawking.[34]

Quantum to Cosmos: Ideas for the Future festival[edit]

Held in October, 2009, the Quantum to Cosmos: Ideas for the Future festival (Q2C Festival) was a science outreach event held in Canada. The festival included events and activities spanning: lectures, panel discussions, pub talks, cultural activities, a PI documentary premiere (The Quantum Tamers: Revealing Our Weird and Wired Future), sci-fi film festival, an art exhibit and the hugely popular Physica Phantastica exhibit centre, a 460-square-metre (5,000 sq ft) space filled with demonstrations, hands-on activities, experiments and an immersive 3D tour of the universe narrated by Stephen Hawking.[35]

The Q2C Festival attracted some 40,000 attendees (including over 6,000 in the secondary school program that brought students from Ontario and New York State and nearly one million viewers – and counting – through online streaming, video-on-demand services and special television broadcasts. Special editions of TVO’s “The Agenda with Steve Paikin", filmed live in PI's Atrium in Waterloo attracted hundreds of thousands of viewers from across Canada with just five broadcasts.[36]


Joint masters-level program[edit]

In partnership with the University of Waterloo, PI conducts Perimeter Scholars International (PSI),[37] a master's level course in theoretical physics.[38] The 10-month course was inaugurated in August 2009, and admits around 30 scholars per year. Students admitted (on average 3% of all applicants[citation needed]) receive full scholarships and living expenses. The master's degree itself is issued by the University of Waterloo.[39][40][41]

Doctoral studies[edit]

Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics also hosts PhD students wishing to pursue full-time graduate studies under the supervision of a PI faculty member. PhD students receive their doctoral degrees from a university partner, such as the University of Waterloo.


Perimeter Institute offers a number of planned courses each year, including cross-listed programs with universities and mini-courses given by PI faculty, associate faculty and visiting researchers. The courses are made available to all students enrolled in surrounding universities. The popular courses are attended by students from University of Waterloo, University of Western Ontario, McMaster University, University of Guelph, University of Toronto, York University, and other centres.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Physics World: Neil Turok chosen to lead Perimeter Institute". Archived from the original on 2016-12-20.
  2. ^ Evaluation, Government of Canada, Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada, Office of the Deputy Minister, Audit and. "Summary of the evaluation of the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics". Retrieved 2017-09-29.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  3. ^ Bonikowsky, Laura Neilson. "Mike Lazaridis". The Canadian Encyclopedia. Retrieved 2017-09-29.
  4. ^ Saucier + Perrotte. {{cite encyclopedia}}: |website= ignored (help)
  5. ^ THEODORE, DAVID. "Perimeter Institute for Research in Theoretical Physics". The Canadian Encyclopedia. Retrieved 2017-09-29.
  6. ^ "Governor General's Medals in Architecture — Past Recipients | RAIC | Architecture Canada". Retrieved 2017-09-29.
  7. ^ "Hawking to open new wing that bears his name |". 2011-03-07. Retrieved 2017-09-29.
  8. ^ "Stephen Hawking Centre at Perimeter Institute | Project 11818 -- Canada Green Building Council". Retrieved 2017-09-29.
  9. ^ "Physics in Canada – Mission: Outreach" (PDF). 2010. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2014-06-06. Retrieved 2011-12-08.
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h i Howitt, Chuck (2019). BlackBerry town : how high tech success has played out for Canada's Kitchener-Waterloo. Toronto. ISBN 978-1-4594-1438-9. OCLC 1110109511.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  11. ^ "$100-million donation may be biggest in Canadian history". The Globe and Mail. 2009-04-26. Retrieved 2017-09-29.
  12. ^ Johnston, Hamish (9 May 2008). "Neil Turok chosen to lead Perimeter Institute". Physics World. Retrieved 17 October 2014.
  13. ^ "RIM co-founder donates $50M to Waterloo physics centre". CBC News. CBC News. June 5, 2008. Retrieved 8 October 2015.
  14. ^ " | sciencetech | Physicist Stephen Hawking accepts post at Waterloo institute". Toronto. 2008-11-27. Retrieved 2008-12-06.
  15. ^ Hand, Eric (23 September 2009). "The Edge of Physics". Nature. 461 (7263): 462–465. doi:10.1038/461462a. PMID 19779427. S2CID 205049690.
  16. ^ "Stephen Hawking Centre at the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics / Teeple Architects". Arch Daily. 30 October 2014. Retrieved 8 October 2015.
  17. ^ "Hawking won't attend opening of Waterloo centre bearing his name". CBC News. 2011-09-09.
  18. ^ PI Expansion Achieves First Gold Seal Rating in Ontario 2010-07
  19. ^ "Perimeter's Stephen Hawking Centre Gains LEED Silver Status". Perimeter Institute. Perimeter Institute. 18 March 2015. Retrieved 8 October 2015.
  20. ^ a b c d Rochon, Lisa (2004-10-20). "This in a city of exceeding ugliness". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 2023-04-01.
  21. ^ "What we research | Perimeter Institute". Retrieved 2021-03-08.
  22. ^ "PIRSA – Perimeter Institute Recorded Seminar Archive".
  23. ^ "Home | SciTalks". Retrieved 2021-03-08.
  24. ^ "2020 Perimeter Institute Annual Report" (PDF). p. 25. Retrieved 2021-03-08.
  25. ^ "About | SciTalks". Retrieved 2021-03-08.
  26. ^ "PI Outreach Continues to Grow Across Ontario, Canada and Beyond". 2010. Retrieved 2011-12-27.
  27. ^ "Outreach Overview – Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics". Retrieved 2008-12-06.
  28. ^ "EINSTEINPLUS – Perimeter Institute".
  29. ^ Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics (18 August 2015). "The ISSYP Experience at Perimeter Institute" – via YouTube.
  30. ^ "International Summer School for Young Physicists – Perimeter Institute".
  31. ^ Corbett, Neil (8 August 2014). "Living the Big Bang Theory". Maple Ridge & Pitt Meadow News. Maple Ridge & Pitt Meadow News. Retrieved 8 October 2015.
  32. ^ Butterworth, Jon (3 October 2015). "Perimeter Lecture: Neil Turok on "The Astonishing Simplicity of Everything"". The Guardian. Retrieved 8 October 2015.
  33. ^ "Perimeter Institute – View Past Public Lectures". 2012. Archived from the original on 2012-01-06. Retrieved 2012-01-08.
  34. ^ "Perimeter Institute reaches out to young students with BrainSTEM". Waterloo Region Record. Waterloo Region Record. 11 September 2013. Retrieved 8 October 2015.
  35. ^ "Looking Back on Quantum to Cosmos: Ideas for the Future". Retrieved 2012-01-08.
  36. ^ Gionas, Sandra. "Quantum to Cosmos: The Science and Inspiration behind this Week's Programs". TVO. Retrieved 8 October 2015.
  37. ^ "About PSI – Perimeter Institute".
  38. ^ "Perimeter Scholars International Award". University of Waterloo Graduate Studies. University of Waterloo. Retrieved 8 October 2015.
  39. ^ "About PSI".
  40. ^ "Perimeter Scholars International Graduates Inaugural Class".
  41. ^ Wells, Paul (8 September 2013). "Perimeter Institute: Jacob's classmates". Maclean's. Maclean's. Retrieved 8 October 2015.

External links[edit]

43°27′55″N 80°31′41″W / 43.46535°N 80.52800°W / 43.46535; -80.52800