Tag Archives: Canada’s National Laboratory for Particle and Nuclear Physics

Recycling your cyclotron—medical isotopes for everyone—a step forward

Last year on June 9, 2013 Canada’s national laboratory for particle and nuclear physics, TRIUMF, announced a better way to produce medical isotopes. From my June 9, 2013 posting,

The possibility medical isotopes could be produced with cyclotrons  is dazzling, especially in light of the reports a few years ago when it was discovered that the Chalk River facility (Ontario, Canada), the source for one 1/3 of the world’s medical isotopes, was badly deteriorated (my July 2, 2010 posting). Today, Sunday, June 9, 2013, TRIUMF, Canada’s national laboratory for particle and nuclear physics, and its partners announced that they have devised a technique for producing medical isotopes that is not dependent on materials from nuclear reactors.  …

“The approach taken by our consortium has established the feasibility of producing appreciable quantities of Tc-99m on Canada’s existing cyclotron network. These same machines are also producing additional isotopes used in a growing number of alternative imaging procedures. The net effect is that Canada will remain on the forefront of medical-isotope technology for the foreseeable future,” said John Valliant, Scientific Director and CEO of the CPDC in Hamilton.

Exactly one year later on June 9, 2014 the team responsible for this new means of producing medical isotopes presented an update of their work at the Society of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging’s (SNMMI) annual conference (from a June 9, 2014 TRIUMF news release),,

… a Canadian team with members from TRIUMF, the BC Cancer Agency, the Centre for Probe Development & Commercialization, and Lawson Health Research Institute announced that they have dramatically advanced technology for addressing the medical-isotope crisis.  The key medical isotope, technetium-99m (Tc-99m), can now be produced in meaningful quantities on the world’s most popular cyclotrons, many of which are already installed across Canada and around the world.

Patients, doctors, and hospitals have been concerned about a supply shortage of the workhorse medical isotopes used in cardiac tests and cancer scans as the world moves away from uranium-based nuclear reactors to create these exotic, short-lived, life-saving compounds.  The Canadian team has demonstrated the successful production of Tc-99m on a standard cyclotron manufactured by GE Healthcare, confirming that this alternative technology can be used by roughly half of the world’s already-installed cyclotrons. [emphasis mine]

Speaking for the consortium, Dr. Frank Prato of the Lawson Health Research Institute said, “This achievement is based on the efforts of the entire team and showcases our progress; we have a technology that can be applied in jurisdictions across Canada and around the world to produce this important isotope.”

Last summer [2013], the team set a world record for production of the critical isotope, Tc-99m, on a Made-in-Canada medical cyclotron; today, the team showed record production of Tc-99m using a GE [General Electric] PETtrace cyclotron at the Lawson Health Research Institute in London, Ontario.  This demonstration, along with the work being done at a similar GE cyclotron in Hamilton, ON, validates the business proposition that conventional cyclotrons around the world can be upgraded to produce Tc-99m for their region.

The Government of Canada has articulated an intention to shift away from reactor-based production of medical isotopes in order to diversify the supply, remove uranium from the supply chain, and halt Canadian taxpayer subsidization of isotopes used in other countries.  [emphasis mine] Through a sequence of programs at the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, the Canadian Institutes for Health Research, and now Natural Resources Canada, the Canadian government has invested in the research, development, and deployment of alternative accelerator-based technologies for the production of Tc-99m.

Next steps in deploying this technology for Canadian patients will include regulatory approval and working with provincial governments to make the choices required to diversify the supply chain and strengthen healthcare systems.  The Canadian team is working to license its proprietary technology and to be positioned to market and supply the essential ingredients to cyclotrons around the world to enable their Tc-99m production.

It’s good to know that this technology allows cyclotrons around the world to be used in the production of medical isotopes. I imagine it’s a great relief know you won’t have to rely on some other country’s production facilities. However, it would have nice to have seen a little less chest-beating. Yes, this technology was developed in Canada but you don’t have to keep repeating Canada/Canadian over and over and over.

As for the Government of Canada’s intention to “halt Canadian taxpayer subsidization of isotopes used in other countries,” that seems somewhat harsh, although not out of line with the Harper government’s ethos.

I hope some thought has been applied to the implications of this policy as it is implemented. For example, do all the countries that need and use medical isotopes produced in Canada have their own cyclotrons? If so, will they be forced to purchase Canadian technology? And, what about the countries that don’t have their own cyclotrons? Are they going to be left out in the cold?

As for taxpayers and subsidies, it should be noted that TRIUMF and, at least one of its partners, BC [British Columbia] Cancer Agency are heavily supported by taxpayers. For example, there’s this Feb. 11, 2014 TRIUMF funding announcement,

In its Economic Action Plan for 2014-2015 released today, the Government of Canada has renewed its commitment to TRIUMF’s existing world-leading research and international partnership activities. The budget secures a base level for existing operations, proposing $222 million for the five years beginning 2015-2016. [emphasis mine]  The announcement of this commitment comes a year in advance and gives TRIUMF a six-year planning horizon for the first time, a strategic advantage for Canada in the highly competitive world of international science.

If I understand things correctly, this is their base funding. There are many other programs and instances where TRIUMF gets additional funding as per this May 21, 2014 posting about a new NSERC program and its funding award to TRIUMF for the ISOSIM program which is jointly run with the University of British Columbia.

Getting back to this latest news release, it seems clear the consortium will be selling this technology although there’s no mention as to how this will be done. Have they created a company with this one mission in mind or are they going to make use of a business entity that is already in existence? And, should this be a successful endeavour, will taxpayers see their support/investment returned to them? Given the Canadian business model, it is much more likely that the company will be grown to a point where it becomes an attractive purchase to a business entity based in another country.

CREATE ISOSIM (isotopes for science and medicine) and NanoMat (nanomaterials) program at the University of British Columbia (Canada)

It seems the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC; one of Canada’s ‘big three’ science national funding agencies) has a new funding program, CREATE (Collaborative Research and Training Experience) and two local (Vancouver, Canada) institutions, the University of British Columbia (UBC) and TRIUMF (Canada’s National Laboratory for Particle and Nuclear Physics) are beneficiaries to the tune of $3.3M.

Before getting the happy news, here’s a little information about this new NSERC program (from the CREATE page),

The Collaborative Research and Training Experience (CREATE) Program supports the training of teams of highly qualified students and postdoctoral fellows from Canada and abroad through the development of innovative training programs that:

  • encourage collaborative and integrative approaches, and address significant scientific challenges associated with Canada’s research priorities; and
  • facilitate the transition of new researchers from trainees to productive employees in the Canadian workforce.

These innovative programs must include the acquisition and development of important professional skills among students and postdoctoral fellows that complement their qualifications and technical skills.

In addition, these programs should encourage the following as appropriate:

  • student mobility, nationally or internationally, between individual universities and between universities and other sectors;
  • interdisciplinary research within the natural sciences and engineering (NSE), or at the interface between the NSE and health, or the social sciences and humanities. However, the main focus of the training must still lie within the NSE;
  • increased collaboration between industry and academia; and
  • for the industrial stream, an additional objective is to support improved job-readiness within the industrial sector by exposing participants to the specific challenges of this sector and training people with the skills identified by industry.

I wonder what they mean by “professional skills?” They use the phrase again in the Description,

The CREATE Program is designed to improve the mentoring and training environment for the Canadian researchers of tomorrow by improving areas such as professional skills, communication and collaboration, as well as providing experience relevant to both academic and non-academic research environments.

This program is intended for graduate students and has two streams, Industrial and International Collaboration. At this point, they have two international collaboration partners, one each in Germany and in Brazil.

There’s a subsection on the CREATE page titled Merit of the proposed training program (in my world that’s ‘criteria for assessment’),

Applicable to all applications:

  • the extent to which the program is associated with a research area of high priority to Canada and will provide a higher quality of training;
  • how the research area proposed relates to the current scientific or technical developments in the field, with references to the current literature;
  • the extent to which the research training program will facilitate the transition of the trainees to the Canadian workforce and will promote interaction of the trainees with non-academic sectors, such as private companies, industry associations, not-for-profit organizations, government departments, etc., as appropriate;
  • the description of the potential employers and a qualitative assessment of the job prospects for trainees;
  • the extent to which the program will provide opportunities for the trainees to develop professional skills;
  • the extent to which the program uses novel and interesting approaches to graduate student training in an integrated manner to provide an enriched experience for all participants;
  • the research training program’s focus and clarity of objectives, both short- and long-term; and
  • the added value that trainees will receive through their participation.

Clearly, this program is about training tomorrow’s workers and I expect CREATE is welcome in many corners. We (in Canada and elsewhere internationally) have a plethora of PhDs and nowhere for them to go. I have, of course, two provisos. First, I hope this program is not a precursor to a wholesale change in funding to a indulge a form of short-term thinking. Not every single course of study has to lead to a clearly defined job as defined by industry. Sometimes, industry doesn’t know what it needs until there’s a shortage. Second, I hope the administrators for this program support it. You (the government) can formulate all sorts of great policies but it’s the civil service that will implement your policies and if they don’t support them, you (the government) are likely to experience failure.

Here’s the CREATE funding announcement in a May 19, 2014 news item on Azonano,

Researchers studying nanomaterials and isotopes at the University of British Columbia received a $3.3 million boost in funding from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC).

Two UBC teams, led respectively by Chemistry Prof. Mark MacLachlan and Physics Prof. Reiner Kruecken, received $1.65 million each from NSERC’s Collaborative Research and Training Experience (CREATE) grants. The funding extends over a six-year period. The investment will help MacLachlan and Kruecken mentor and train graduate students and postdoctoral fellows.

A May 16, 2014 UBC news release, which originated the news item, provides more information including some background for the two project leaders,

Mark MacLachlan, Professor, UBC Department of Chemistry
NanoMAT: NSERC CREATE Training Program in Nanomaterials Science & Technology

Nanomaterials have dimensions about 1/1000th the width of a human hair. Though invisible to our eyes, these materials are already used for diagnosing and treating diseases, environmental remediation, developing solar cells and batteries, as well as other applications. Nanomaterials form a multi-billion dollar industry that is expanding rapidly. To address the growing need for highly qualified trainees in Canada, UBC researchers have spearheaded the NanoMat program. Through a unique interdisciplinary training program, science and engineering students will undertake innovative research projects, receive hands-on training, and undertake internships at companies in Canada and across the world.

Reiner Kruecken, Professor, UBC Department of Physics and Astronomy
ISOSIM, ISOtopes for Science and Medicine

The ISOSIM program is designed to provide students with enriched training experiences in the production and preparation of nuclear isotopes for innovative applications that range from medical research and environmental science to investigations of the foundations of the universe. This will prepare students for positions in a number of Canadian industrial sectors including medical diagnostics and treatment, pharmaceutical sciences, development of next-generation electronic devices, environmental sciences, and isotope production. This project builds on the existing cooperation between UBC and TRIUMF, Canada’s national laboratory for particle and nuclear phsyics, [sic] on isotopes science.

Not mentioned in the UBC news release is that ISOSIM is a program that is jointly run with TRIUMF, Canada’s National Laboratory for Particle and Nuclear Physics. Here’s how TRIUMF views their CREATE grant, from a May 16, 2014 TRIUMF news release,

The ISOSIM program will train undergraduate students, graduate students, and postdoctoral researchers at UBC and TRIUMF from fields associated with isotope sciences in an individually tailored, interdisciplinary curriculum that will build on and complement the education in their specialty field. Unique in Canada, this program offers a combination of interdisciplinary isotope-related training ranging from pure to applied sciences, industrial internships, and mobility with German research institutions with unique large-scale equipment and scientific infrastructures.

It seems this particular grant was awarded as part of the international collaboration stream. (I wonder if TRIUMF or TRIUMF-friendly individuals had a role in developing that particular aspect of the CREATE program. Following on that thought, is there a large Canadian science organization with ties to Brazil?)

Getting back to TRIUMF’s current CREATE grant, the news release emphasizes an industrial focus,

“ISOSIM represents a timely and nationally important training initiative and is built on a world-class collaborative research environment,” says Dr. Reiner Kruecken, TRIUMF’s Science Division Head and Professor at UBC Department of Physics and Astronomy. Kruecken is leading the ISOSIM initiative and is joined by over twenty collaborators from UBC, TRIUMF, and several research institutes in Germany.

ISOSIM is poised to create the next generation of leaders for isotope-related industries and markets, including commercial, public health, environmental, and governmental sectors, as well as academia. The combination of research institutions like UBC, TRIUMF, and the BC Cancer Agency with Canadian companies like Nordion Inc., and Advanced Cyclotron Solutions Inc., have transformed Vancouver into a hub for isotope-related research and industries, emerging as “Isotope Valley”.

The inspiration for the ISOSIM program came from an interdisciplinary TRIUMF-led team who, in response to the isotope crisis, demonstrated non-reactor methods for producing the critical medical isotope Tc-99m. This required a coordinated approach of physicists, chemists, biologists, and engineers.

Similar interdisciplinary efforts are needed for expanding the use and application of isotopes in key areas. While their medical use is widely known, isotopes enjoy growing importance in many fields. Isotopes are used as tracers to examine the trace flow of nutrients and pollutants in the environment. Isotopes are also used to characterize newly designed materials and the behaviour of nanostructured materials that play a key role in modern electronics devices. The production and investigation of very short-lived radioactive isotopes, also known as rare-isotopes, is a central approach in nuclear physics research to understand the nuclear force and how the chemical elements heavier than iron were formed in stars and stellar explosions.

I really wish they (marketing/communications and/or business people) would stop trying to reference ‘silicon valley’ as per this news release’s ‘isotope valley’. Why not ‘isotope galaxy’? It fits better with the isotope and star theme.

Getting back to the “professional skills” mentioned in the CREATE grant description, I don’t see any mention of etiquette, good manners, listening skills, or the quality of humility, all of which are handy in the workplace and having had my share of experience dealing with fresh out-of-graduate-school employees, I’d say they’re sorely needed.

Regardless, I wish both MacLachlan and Krueken the best as they and their students pioneer what I believe is a new NSERC program.

From the quantum to the cosmos; an event at Vancouver’s (Canada) Science World

ARPICO (Society of Italian Researchers & Professionals in Western Canada) sent out an April 9, 2014 announcement,

FROM THE QUANTUM TO THE COSMOS

May 7 [2014] “Unveiling the Universe” lecture registration now open:

Join Science World and TRIUMF on Wednesday, May 7, at Science World at TELUS World of Science in welcoming Professor Edward “Rocky” Kolb, the Arthur Holly Compton Distinguished Service Professor of Astronomy and Astrophysics at the University of Chicago, for his lecture on how the laws of quantum physics at the tiniest distances relate to structures in the universe at the largest scales. He also will highlight recent spectacular results into the nature of the Big Bang from the orbiting Planck satellite and the South Pole-based BICEP2 telescope.

Doors open at 6:15pm and lecture starts at 7pm. It will be followed by an audience Q&A session.

Tickets are free but registration is required. Details on the registration page (link below)
See http://www.eventbrite.ca/o/unveiling-the-universe-lecture-series-2882137721?s=23658359 for more information.

You can go here to the Science World website for more details and another link for tickets,

Join Science World, TRIUMF and guest speaker Dr Rocky Kolb on Wednesday, May 7 [2014], for another free Unveiling the Universe public lecture about the inner space/outer space connection that may hold the key to understanding the nature of dark matter, dark energy and the mysterious seeds of structure that grew to produce everything we see in the cosmos.

I notice Kolb is associated with the Fermi Lab, which coincidentally is where TRIUMF’s former director, Nigel Lockyer is currently located. You can find out more about Kolb on his personal webpage, where I found this description from his repertoire of talks,

Mysteries of the Dark Universe
Ninety-five percent of the universe is missing! Astronomical observations suggest that most of the mass of the universe is in a mysterious form called dark matter and most of the energy in the universe is in an even more mysterious form called dark energy. Unlocking the secrets of dark matter and dark energy will illuminate the nature of space and time and connect the quantum with the cosmos.

Perhaps this along with the next bit gives you a clearer idea of what Kolb will be discussing. He will also be speaking at TRIUMF, Canada’s national laboratory of particle and nuclear physics, from the events page,

Wed ,2014-05-07    14:00    Colloquium    Rocky Kolb, Fermilab     Auditorium    The Decade of the WIMP
Abstract:    The bulk of the matter in the present universe is dark. The most attractive possibility for the nature of the dark matter is a new species of elementary particle known as a WIMP (a Weakly Interacting Massive Particle). After a discussion of how a WIMP might fit into models of particle physics, I will review the current situation with respect to direct detection, indirect detection, and collider production of WIMPs. Rapid advances in the field should enable us to answer by the end of the decade whether our universe is dominated by WIMPs.

You may want to get your tickets soon as other lectures in the Unveiling the Universe series have gone quickly.

New director for TRIUMF, Canada’s national laboratory for particle and nuclear physics starts

Here’s the announcement, straight from the March 18, 2014 TRIUMF news release,

After a seven month, highly competitive, international search for TRIUMF’s next director, the laboratory’s Board of Management announced today that Dr. Jonathan Bagger, Krieger-Eisenhower Professor, Vice Provost, and former Interim Provost at the Johns Hopkins University, will join TRIUMF this summer as the laboratory’s next director.

TRIUMF is Canada’s national laboratory for particle and nuclear physics, focusing on probing the structure and origins of matter and advancing isotopes for science and medicine.  Located on the campus of the University of British Columbia, TRIUMF is owned and operated by a consortium of 18 leading Canadian universities and supported by the federal and provincial governments.

Bagger was attracted to TRIUMF because, “Its collaborative, interdisciplinary model represents the future for much of science.  TRIUMF helps Canada connect fundamental research to important societal goals, ranging from health and safety to education and innovation.”  Noting TRIUMF’s new strategic plan that recently secured five years of core funding from the Government of Canada, he added, “It is an exciting time to lead the
laboratory.”

Bagger brings extensive experience to the job.  Professor Paul Young, Chair of TRIUMF’s Board of Management and Vice-President of Research and Innovation at the University of Toronto, said, “Jon is an outstanding, internationally renowned physicist with a wealth of leadership experience and a track record of excellence.  He is a welcome addition to Canada and I am confident that under his tenure, TRIUMF will continue to flourish.”

Jim Hanlon, Interim CEO/Chief Administrator Officer of TRIUMF and President and CEO of Advanced Applied Physics Solutions Inc., welcomed the news.  He said, “The laboratory has been shaped and served greatly by its past directors.  Today the need continues for an extraordinary combination of vision, leadership, and excellence.  Jon will bring all of this and more to TRIUMF.  On behalf of the staff, we’re excited about moving forward with Jon
at the helm.”

Bagger expressed his enthusiasm in moving across the border to join TRIUMF as the next director. “TRIUMF is known internationally for its impressive capabilities in science and engineering, ranging from rare-isotope studies on its Vancouver campus to its essential contributions to the Higgs boson discovery at CERN.  All rest on the legendary dedication and commitment of TRIUMF’s researchers and staff.  I look forward to working with this
terrific team to advance innovation and discovery in Vancouver, in Canada, and on the international stage.”

Bagger will lead the laboratory for a six-year term beginning July 1 [2014].  He reports he is ready to go:  “I have installed a metric speedometer in my car, downloaded the Air Canada app, and cleansed my home of all Washington Capitals gear.”

Nice of Bagger to start his new job on Canada Day. From a symbolic perspective, it’s an interesting start date. As for his metric speedometer and Air Canada app, bravo! Perhaps though he might have wanted the last clause to feature the Vancouver Canucks, e.g., ‘and set aside money/have set aside space for Vancouver Canucks gear’. You can find out more about TRIUMF here.

Silence of the Labs (exposé) a Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) television event scheduled for January 10, 2014

I’ve perhaps overstated the case by calling the upcoming telecast ‘Silence of the Labs’ an event,. For many people in the Canadian science community, it will be an event but for most of the television audience it’s simply the first new episode of the Fifth Estate’s 2014 schedule. (For anyone unfamiliar with the Fifth Estate, it’s the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s [CBC] longest running, 39th season, and most prestigious investigative journalism television programme.)

Assuming there are some people who haven’t been following this story about the ‘silencing’ of Canada’s scientists or censorship as it has been called, here’s a précis (and if you’ve been following it more closely than I have and note any errors or have any additions, please do use the commenting option (Note: Due to spam issues, I moderate comments so it may take a few hours or more [I don't usually check the blog on the weekends]  before your comments appear.)

I think my earliest mention of the topic was in 2009 (Sept. 21, 2009; scroll down to the last paragraph). At this point, the Conservative government  had put a ‘muzzle’ on government scientists working for Environment Canada not allowing them to speak directly to media representatives about their work. All questions were to be directed to ministry communications officers. In fact, the muzzle was first discussed in a National Post Jan. 31, 200-8 article by Margaret Munro (which predates this blog’s existence by a few months). In a Sept. 16, 2013 posting, I featured the then recent muzzling of Natural Resources Canada, a story which was first covered by Margaret Munro. My understanding is that Health Canada had also been ‘muzzled’ but that was done earlier by the Liberal government when it was in power.

My colleague, David Bruggemen (Pasco Phronesis blog) disagrees with the contention by many in the Canadian science community that these ‘muzzles’ constitute a form of censorship. In addition to the postings he has made on his blog he also commented on my March 7, 2012 posting (I linked to one of David’s postings on the topic and included an excerpt from it) where I discussed my failure to get answers to questions from an institution located on the University of British Columbia lands and linked it to the ‘muzzle’. In that context,, I mused about censorship.

Since 2012 the focus seems to have shifted from media representatives being able to get direct and uninhibited access to scientists to the public’s right to know and attempts to ‘shut down’ scientific inquiry. In July 2012, there was a rally in Ottawa called Death of Evidence (discussed in both my July 10, 2012 posting and my July 13, 2012 posting followed by a 2013 cross Canada event, Stand up for Science described in my Oct. 4, 2013 posting. As I noted in that posting, most of the science being ‘censored’ or ‘attacked’ is environmental. Institutions such as the Perimeter Institute (theoretical physics)  in Ontario and TRIUMF, Canada’s National Laboratory for Particle and Nuclear Physics in British Columbia have done very well under the Conservative government.

with all that, here’s a preview (51 seconds) of the Silence of the Labs,

You can find out more about the episode here and, if you should miss the telecast, you’ll probably be able to watch later on the Fifth Estate’s CBC  Player webpage. As for the ‘Silence of the Labs” (hat off for the pun), I believe it will be broadcast at 9 pm regardless of timezone on the local CBC channel across most of the country; I assume that as usual Newfoundland will enjoy the telecast at 9:30 pm.

TRIUMF announces both an interim director and an unusual job sharing plan with Japan

A July 17, 2013 TRIUMF news release announces a new interim structure (CEO? and name change?) and an international search for a permanent replacement while they wish current director Nigel Lockyer well as he dances out the door to his new job as director of the US Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Chicago, Illinois,

TRIUMF’s Board of Management today announced plans for interim leadership of the laboratory.  Present director Nigel S. Lockyer will be leaving TRIUMF and headed to the U.S. Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory as its new director effective September 3, 2013.  Interim leadership will be provided by the Board and a team of current senior staff.

In its discussions, the Board reviewed the following considerations:

+ The laboratory’s near-term activities and plans are well-defined and
publicly declared in its Five-Year Plan 2010-2015;
+ Effective stewardship of the laboratory in this interim period requires
familiarity and experience with TRIUMF;
+ The senior management team of the laboratory is successful and efficient;
and
+ The Board of Management, representing the university owners of TRIUMF, is
ultimately responsible for the laboratory and its operations and the
fulfillment of the laboratory’s mission.

To achieve these objectives, an interim-leadership structure composed of a management team, direct participation by members of the Board, and a new President and CEO of TRIUMF Accelerators, Inc. will be implemented on August 1, 2013 (thereby providing one-month overlap with the present Laboratory Director).

The Board of Management will exercise oversight and control of TRIUMF through weekly meetings between laboratory management and the Chair of the Finance Committee of the Board and monthly meetings between laboratory management and the Chair of the Board.

The laboratory will manage day-to-day operations using a team of existing senior staff.  The team will consist of three elements:

1. Scientific and Engineering Leadership Team (including the Heads of the Science, Engineering, Nuclear Medicine, and Accelerator Divisions);
2. Administrative Leadership Team (including the Chief Financial Officer; the Head of the Business and Administration Division; the Manager, Environment, Health and Safety; and the Head of Strategic Planning and Communication); and
3. An Interim Chief Executive Officer / Chief Administrative Officer (CEO/CAO) who will have signing authority for TRIUMF and will be responsible for the smooth operation and performance of the teams.  This role will be filled by Jim Hanlon who will be accountable to the Board on a day-to-day
basis for the laboratory. Jim is currently Head of the Business & Administration Division and Secretary to the TRIUMF Board of Management.

The new interim President and CEO of TRIUMF Accelerators, Inc. will be Jim Hanlon.  [emphasis mine] Other officers remain as they are.  The interim and transitional arrangement will be operative for six months, or extended following review, until the next director is appointed.

With regard to selecting a new director of the laboratory, the chair of the Search Committee has been identified and the full committee is being convened.  The international search will be launched by August 1.

This is fascinating and it’s nice to have a name for the new ‘head poobah’  although they’ve decided to restructure in a rather **unexpected and dramatic fashion with the decision to appoint a temporary Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and President, not a director as was Lockyer. Plus they seem to have changed the organization’s name in **the news release, TRIUMF Accelerators, Inc., as opposed to TRIUMF; Canada’s National Laboratory for Particle and Nuclear Physics. Oddly, the name change is not reflected on the website as of July 18, 2013 11:45 PDT nor is it officially announced in the news release.

I did speculate as to some of the issues that might arise when a leader departs in a June 21, 2013 posting where I used Tim Meyer (Head, Strategic Planning & Communications) as an example and described some of the issues that might arise regardless of whom is chosen from an internal pool for an interim position but I never anticipated this dramatic shift to a structure that mimics a corporation rather than a scientific enterprise. (It seems to me their appointee, Jim Hanlon, heads the Business & Administration Division and is Secretary to the Board of Management is in the unenviable position of not having much authority, other than signing authority,  in a situation where he carries a lot of responsibility.)

Assuming that this is a permanent change in structure, they will be searching for a president and CEO not a director which along with the name change suggests that the emphasis will be on business qualifications as much as, or perhaps more so, than on research qualifications. *Coincidentally or not, the new, as of July 15, 2013, Minister of State for Science and Technology, Gary Rickford has an MBA (Masters of Business Administration) in addition to his nursing qualifications and legal degree. I covered this latest cabinet shuffle and the change to the junior ministry (Sci & Tech) and its parent ministry, Industry Canada, in my July 17, 2012 posting.)

Given the Canadian federal government’s appetite for commodifying scientific research and imposing business models on the research community, this seems like a smart and strategic move on TRIUMF’s part. (For an example of the Harper government’s appetite, I wrote about Canada’s National Research Council and its change to a business-oriented focus in my May 13, 2012 posting and May 22, 2013 posting.)

I note this change to a corporate name and structure comes from within the science community and is not being imposed by the government. It seems that as scientists see how the wind is blowing they will turn direction. Of course, that’s pretty standard behaviour in any sector. What makes this situation at TRIUMF particularly interesting is the implication for the future as young scientists are likely to increasingly adopt business attitudes to their work. Since business is primarily about making money and the last time we encouraged youth to pursue money at all costs we ended up with at least two economic meltdowns and a generation of investment bankers, we are likely to run short (again) of critically needed skills in areas that **don’t promise ‘a fast buck’.

Finally, here’s my bit about a unique job sharing plan between TRIUMF (issued prior to the name change?) and a laboratory in Japan. From a July 11, 2013 TRIUMF news release,

In an unusual alliance between TRIUMF, Canada’s national laboratory for nuclear and particle physics, and the Kavli Institute for the Physics and Mathematics of the Universe (Kavli IPMU) in Japan, a long-term joint research position has been created in order to recruit, develop, and
support a world-leading scientist in two countries.  The catch?  After working for the first four years with 75% of his time in Japan and 25% in Canada, the candidate will choose which laboratory’s long-term job offer to accept. American physicist Dr. Mark Hartz has been selected for this
high-stakes competition and in five years will be choosing his long-term home in Tokyo or Vancouver.

From either side of the Pacific Ocean, there will continue to be a great demand for Hartz. He has been appointed as assistant professor and is expected to carry out the full range of duties of a grant tenure track research scientist at both Kavli IPMU and TRIUMF. Additionally, he will serve on internal committees and represent both institutes at the national and international level. His cross-cultural and cross-laboratory experiences will be a great benefit for both Kavli IPMU and TRIUMF.

Dr. Nigel S. Lockyer, director of TRIUMF, acknowledged the rarity and significance of Hartz’s role. Lockyer said, “We need more competitive, cross-border positions like this to enrich and strengthen top talent. I’m delighted that Japan agrees that Hartz is worth fighting for, and yet I’m confident that in the long term Canada is the right place for him and his world-class research ambitions.”

Dr. Hitoshi Murayama, director of Kavli IPMU, said, “Mark is a tremendous addition to our team and will help expand our institutional role in the Japanese flagship T2K neutrino experiment. Once he comes to Kavli IPMU and sees our fantastic environment with interdisciplinary interactions with
astronomers and mathematicians, I have no doubt that he will settle down here.  We already have a great track record of keeping our non-Japanese scientists happy and productive.”

In recent years, Hartz experienced the enormous benefits of global collaboration through research at the Tokai to Kamioka (T2K) neutrino experiment-an international investigation into the behaviour of neutrinos as they travel from one location to another, where he led national efforts to develop beamline monitors and analysis specific to the experiment. With his advanced technical and engineering background, Hartz is an ideal candidate for this cross-laboratory role. He will continue to focus his tenure on the T2K collaboration and is expected to build a strong T2K experimental group at Kavli IPMU.

“The T2K experiment is a textbook example of scientists working across borders to drive new discoveries and pursue the best science,” said Hartz. “This joint position is a brilliant opportunity to work with research communities and give momentum to those interactions.  Although national
borders are invisible to the scientist in me, I am curious to see where I’ll end up in five years!”

As a post-doctoral fellow at both York University and the University of Toronto, Hartz gained extensive experience with the T2K Optical Transition detector and led both the beam analysis and Near Detector to Far Detector Extrapolation analysis groups. He completed detailed predictions of neutrino beam properties prior to the neutrino changing its form in a phenomenon called “neutrino oscillation”. Additionally, Hartz developed sophisticated analysis tools to constrain the neutrino beam flux-an important element for analyzing the oscillations of neutrinos.

Other than being confused as to whether Hartz is making his choice of laboratory and country after four years or five, I do find this to be an innovative approach to recruiting researchers and I see advantages for both the researchers and the labs. I am curious as to why it’s a 75%/25% split in favour of the Kavli Institute (PMU) in Japan. Does it have something to do with initiating this unique opportunity? O perhaps since the researcher is Canadian and more time is needed in Japan so he might acclimate and make a more informed decision?

Regardless, bravo to both the Kavli Institute (PMU) and TRIUMF for taking a bold approach to attracting exciting researchers to their respective institutions.

* Opening paranthesis removed on July 19, 2013.

** ‘and’ removed, ‘the’ added’, and ‘didn’t’ changed to ‘don’t’ on Aug. 1, 2013

Mysteries of the quantum universe; a July 12, 2013 public talk at Vancouver’s (Canada) Science World

Happy Canada Day! I think today’s only posting will be this one about an upcoming public event in Vancouver, from the June 28, 2013 announcement from TRIUMF; Canada’s national laboratory for particle and nuclear physics,

“Mysteries of the Quantum Universe”
Public lecture Friday July 12, 7pm, TELUS World of Science
 
(Vancouver, BC)  Join Science World and TRIUMF in welcoming Dr Hitoshi Murayama for a free physics lecture at TELUS World of Science on Friday, July 12. Dr Murayama will be speaking about neutrinos, anti-matter and dark matter as part of the “Unveiling the Universe” lecture series presented by TRIUMF and Science World.
Dr Murayama is well-known for his enthusiastic lectures for student and general audience.
About Hitoshi Murayama:
Dr Murayama lives to solve nature’s elemental puzzles like eccentric particles, dark matter and why our universe is expanding so swiftly. He received his PhD in theoretical physics from University of Tokyo in 1991. Dr Murayama became a senior staff member at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the MacAdams Professor of Physics at the University of California, Berkeley. In 2007, Dr Murayama was named the founding director of the University of Tokyo’s Kavli Institute for the Physics and Mathematics of the Universe. The institute’s goal is to use the synergistic perspectives of mathematics, astronomy and theoretical and experimental physics to reveal how the cosmos was formed, how it runs and why we exist.
Doors open at 6:15pm and the presentation starts at 7pm. Q&A session to follow. Tickets are free, but online registration is required. See:
 
Note that a livestream of the lecture (Silverlight plugin required) will be available online for any who are interested and are unable to make it to the event in person. (See registration site for lifestream link)

As far as I can tell, there are still seats as of July 1, 2013 9 am PDT. Oddly, this event is not mentioned on the Science World homepage or elsewhere nor does it seem to be mentioned on the TRIUMF website..

TRIUMF looks for new Director as Nigel S. Lockyer exits for the Fermilab (US)

The circumstances around Nigel S. Lockyer’s departure as Director of Canada’s National Laboratory for Particle and Nuclear Physics, TRIUMF,  are very interesting. Just weeks ago, TRIUMF announced a major innovation for producing medical isotopes (my June 9, 2013 posting), which should have an enormous impact on cities around the world and their access to medical isotopes. (Briefly, cities with cyclotrons could produce, using the technology developed by TRIUMF,  their own medical isotopes without using material from nuclear reactors.)

Also in the recent past, Canada’s much storied McGill University joined the TRIUMF consortium (I’m surprized it took this long), from the May 10, 2013 news release,

At its recent Board of Management meeting, TRIUMF approved McGill University as an associate member of the consortium of universities that owns and operates Canada’s national laboratory for particle and nuclear physics. McGill joins 17 other Canadian universities in leading TRIUMF.

Paul Young, Chair of the Board and Vice President for Research at the University of Toronto, said, “The addition of McGill to the TRIUMF family is a great step forward. McGill brings world-class scientists and students to TRIUMF and TRIUMF brings world-leading research tools and partnerships to McGill.”

The university’s closer association with TRIUMF will allow it to participate in discussions about setting the direction of the laboratory as well provide enhanced partnerships for new research infrastructure that strengthens efforts on McGill’s campuses. Dr. Rose Goldstein, McGill Vice-Principal (Research and International Relations), said, “We are delighted to formalize our long-standing involvement in TRIUMF. It is an important bridge to international research opportunities at CERN and elsewhere. Associate membership in TRIUMF will also help McGill advance its Strategic Research Plan, especially in the priority area of exploring the natural environment, space, and the universe.”

McGill University has been involved in TRIUMF-led activities for several decades, most notably as part of the Higgs-hunting efforts at CERN. TRIUMF constructed parts of the Large Hadron Collider that ultimately produced Higgs bosons. The co-discovery was made by the ATLAS experiment for which TRIUMF led Canadian construction of several major components, and McGill played a key role in the development of the experiment’s trigger system. McGill and TRIUMF have also worked together on particle-physics projects in Japan and the U.S.

Professor Charles Gale, chair of the Department of Physics, played a key role in formalizing the relationship between TRIUMF and McGill. He said, “Our department is one of the top in North America in research, teaching, and service. Undoubtedly our work with TRIUMF has helped contribute to that and I expect both institutions to blossom even further.” Professor of physics and Canadian Research Chair in Particle Physics Brigitte Vachon added, “TRIUMF provides key resources to my students and me that make our research at CERN possible; the discovery of the Higgs boson is a perfect example of what such collaboration can achieve.”

Nigel S. Lockyer, director of TRIUMF, commented, “The addition of McGill to the TRIUMF team is welcome and long overdue. We have been working together for decades in subatomic physics and this acknowledgment of the partnership enhances both institutions and builds stronger ties in areas such as materials science and nuclear medicine.”

A scant month after McGill joins the consortium and weeks after a major announcement about medical isotopes, Lockyer announces his departure for the Fermilabs in the US, from the May 20, 2013 TRIUMF news release,

In his capacity as Chairman of the Board of Directors of Fermi Research Alliance, LLC, University of Chicago President Robert J. Zimmer today announced that TRIUMF’s director Nigel S. Lockyer has been selected to become the next director of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, located outside Chicago.  Lockyer is expected to complete his work at TRIUMF this summer and begin at Fermilab in the autumn.

Paul Young, Chair of TRIUMF’s Board of Management and Vice President of Research and Innovation at the University of Toronto said, “Nigel was selected from a truly outstanding set of international candidates for this challenging and important position.  Although it will be a short-term loss, this development is a clear recognition of Nigel’s vision and passion for science and the international leadership taken by TRIUMF and Canada in subatomic physics.  On behalf of the entire TRIUMF Board, we wish Nigel, TRIUMF, and Fermilab every success in the future.”

Lockyer set TRIUMF upon a new course when he arrived six years ago, focusing the team on “Advancing isotopes for science and medicine.”  Based on TRIUMF’s existing infrastructure and talent, this initiative ranged from expanding the nuclear-medicine program so that it is now playing a leading role in resolving the medical-isotope crisis to the formulation and funding of a new flagship facility called ARIEL that will double TRIUMF’s capabilities for producing exotic isotopes used in science and for developing tomorrow’s medical isotopes.  At the heart of ARIEL is a next-generation electron accelerator using modern superconducting radio-frequency technology.

Commenting on Nigel’s leadership of TRIUMF, Paul Young added, “One look at TRIUMF’s current trajectory and you can see that this is a man of great ambition and talent.  Working with the Board and a great team at the lab, he propelled TRIUMF to new heights.  We have all been fortunate at TRIUMF to have Nigel as a colleague and leader.”

Reflecting on his time at TRIUMF and the upcoming transition to Fermilab, Nigel Lockyer said, “Knowing that TRIUMF is in good hands with a superb leadership team and seeing its growing string of accomplishments has helped make this decision a tiny bit easier.  The laboratory’s future is secure and TRIUMF knows exactly what it is doing.  I am proud to have contributed to TRIUMF’s successes and it is my hope to ignite the same energy and enthusiasm in the U.S. by heading the team at Fermilab.”  He added, “I also expect to foster a new level of partnership between the U.S. and Canada in these key areas of science and technology.”

“Nigel has had a profound impact on TRIUMF,” said David B. MacFarlane, chair of the National Research Council’s Advisory Committee on TRIUMF and Associate Laboratory Director at the U.S. SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory.  “He articulated an ambitious new vision for the laboratory and energetically set it upon a path toward an exciting world-class program in rare-isotope beams and subatomic-physics research.  When ARIEL comes online, the lab will be fulfilling the vision that Nigel and his team boldly initiated.”  David MacFarlane added, “The TRIUMF community will certainly miss his warmth, his insatiable scientific curiosity, his creativity, and his faith in the laboratory and its entire staff.  However, I fully expect these same characteristics will serve Nigel well in his new leadership role as Fermilab director.”

As per standard practice, the TRIUMF Board of Management will announce plans and timelines for the international search process and interim leadership within the next few weeks.

Before speculating on the search process and interim leadership appointment, I have a comment of sorts about the Fermilab, which was last mentioned here in my Feb. 1, 2012 posting where I excerpted this interesting comment from a news release,

From the Feb. 1, 2012 news release on EurekAlert,

In this month’s Physics World, reviews and careers editor, Margaret Harris, visits the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab) to explore what future projects are in the pipeline now that the Tevatron particle accelerator has closed for good.

After 28 years of ground-breaking discoveries, the Tevatron accelerator has finally surrendered to the mighty Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN [European Laboratory for Particle Physics], placing Fermilab, in some people’s mind, on the brink of disappearing into obscurity. [emphasis mine]

It seems the Fermilab is in eclipse and Lockyer is going there to engineer a turnaround. It makes one wonder what the conditions were when he arrived at TRIUMF six years ago (2006?). Leading on from that thought, the forthcoming decisions as to whom will be the interim Director and/or the next Director should be intriguing.

Usually an interim position is filled by a current staff member, which can lead to some fraught moments amongst internal competitors.  That action, however fascinating, does not tend to become fodder for public consumption.

Frankly, I’m more interested in the board’s perspective. What happens if they pick an internal candidate while they prepare for the next stage when they’re conducting their international search? Based on absolutely no inside information whatsoever, I’m guessing that Tim Meyer, Head, Strategic Planning & Communications for TRIUMF, would be a viable internal candidate for interim director.

From a purely speculative position, let’s assume he makes a successful play to become the interim Director. At this point, the board will have to consider what direction is the right one for TRIUMF while weighing up the various candidates for the permanent position.  Assuming the interim Director is ambitious and wants to become the permanent Director, the dynamics could get very interesting indeed.

From the board’s perspective, you want the best candidate and you want to keep your staff. In Canada, there’s one TRIUMF; there are no other comparable institutions in the country.  Should an internal candidate such as Meyer get the interim position but not the permanent one (assuming he’d want to be the permanent Director) he would have very few options in Canada.

Based on this speculation, I can safety predict some very interesting times ahead for TRIUMF and its board. In the meantime, I wish Lockyer all the best as he moves back to the US to lead the Fermilab.

Dazzling possibilities for creating medical isotopes

The possibility medical isotopes could be produced with cyclotrons  is dazzling, especially in light of the reports a few years ago when it was discovered that the Chalk River facility (Ontario, Canada), the source for one 1/3 of the world’s medical isotopes, was badly deteriorated (my July 2, 2010 posting). Today, Sunday, June 9, 2013, TRIUMF, Canada’s national laboratory for particle and nuclear physics, and its partners announced that they have devised a technique for producing medical isotopes that is not dependent on materials from nuclear reactors. From the June 9, 2013 TRIUMF news release,

With Canadian-developed tools and technology, a national team led by TRIUMF has reached a crucial milestone at the BC Cancer Agency in developing and deploying alternatives for supplying key medical isotopes. The team used a medical cyclotron that was designed and manufactured by Advanced Cyclotron Systems, Inc. (ACSI) of Richmond, BC, and successfully achieved large-scale production of technetium-99m (Tc-99m), sufficient for a metropolitan area.

The team announced the successful ramp-up of its technology to regularly produce enough of the critical Tc-99m isotope to supply an urban area the size of Vancouver. This achievement eliminates the need for nuclear reactors to produce isotopes, especially those that use weaponsgrade uranium, which has been the traditional approach.

Of course, the metropolitan area will need its own cyclotron and the technology has yet to be proven in an industrial-grade production facility. The news release goes on to explain the situation with medical isotopes,

Each year, tens of millions of medical procedures are conducted around the world with Tc-99m, an isotope used in radiopharmaceuticals for imaging disease in the heart, bones, and elsewhere in the body. Two aging nuclear reactors produce about three quarters of the global supply; one of them is the National Research Universal (NRU) reactor in Chalk River, Ontario. In the past few years, both reactors have suffered maintenance and repair outages, threatening the global supply of medical isotopes.

Here are some more technical details about the project,

“The approach taken by our consortium has established the feasibility of producing appreciable quantities of Tc-99m on Canada’s existing cyclotron network. These same machines are also producing additional isotopes used in a growing number of alternative imaging procedures. The net effect is that Canada will remain on the forefront of medical-isotope technology for the
foreseeable future,” said John Valliant, Scientific Director and CEO of the CPDC in Hamilton.

In February 2012, the TRIUMF-led team demonstrated that the production of Tc-99m was possible on existing medical cyclotrons based in BC and Ontario. After a year of scaling up performance and making engineering improvements to target fabrication, control, and purification procedures, the team has achieved its next milestone: the production of enough Tc-99m in a six hour overnight shift at the BC Cancer Agency Vancouver Centre to supply the demands of a metropolitan area (roughly equivalent to 10 Curies). The next milestones for TRIUMF and its partners include engineering optimization and regulatory approval.

As for the future (from the news releases),

Commenting on the path forward, TRIUMF’s director Nigel Lockyer said, “Having cleared this technical hurdle, we are well on our way to assembling the right team to make a competitive proposal to join the BC supply chain for medical isotopes such as technetium-99m. I look forward to working with existing and new partners, including ACSI, in making this possible.”

For those who are curious about the partners,

About TRIUMF

TRIUMF is Canada’s national laboratory for particle and nuclear physics. Together with its partner AAPS, Inc., TRIUMF also seeks to commercialize its technologies for the benefit of all Canadians. Located on the south campus of the University of British Columbia, TRIUMF receives operating support from the Government of Canada through a contribution agreement via National Research Council Canada; the Government of British Columbia provides capital for new buildings. TRIUMF is owned and operated as a joint venture by a consortium of the following Canadian universities: University of Alberta, University of British Columbia, University of Calgary, Carleton University, University of Guelph, University of Manitoba, McGill University, McMaster University, Université de Montréal, University of Northern British Columbia, Queen’s University, University of Regina, Saint Mary’s University, Simon Fraser University, University of Toronto, University of Victoria, University of Winnipeg, and York University. For more information, please visit us at http://www.triumf.ca.

About ACSI

In 2003, Ebco Industries—using technology licensed from world-renowned subatomic-physics research centre, TRIUMF—founded ACSI with a goal to revolutionize cyclotron design. Since then, ACSI has specialized in producing advanced cyclotrons that can meet the world’s growing isotope needs. As part of the Government of Canada’s Isotope Technology Acceleration Program (ITAP), ACSI is a member of a consortium funded alongside the TRIUMF team to develop viable alternatives to nuclear reactor-produced medical isotopes. For more information, please visit us at http://www.advancedcyclotron.com.

About the BC Cancer Agency

The BC Cancer Agency, an agency of the Provincial Health Services Authority, is committed to reducing the incidence of cancer, reducing the mortality from cancer, and improving the quality of life of those living with cancer. It provides a comprehensive cancer control program for the people of British Columbia by working with community partners to deliver a range of oncology services, including prevention, early detection, diagnosis and treatment, research, education, supportive care, rehabilitation and palliative care. The BC Cancer Foundation raises funds to support research and enhancements to patient care at the BC Cancer Agency.

About the Centre for Probe Development and Commercialization

The Centre for Probe Development and Commercialization (CPDC) discovers, develops and distributes molecular imaging probes for the early diagnosis of diseases and to assess the effectiveness of treatments. An important part of Ontario’s health system, CPDC provides a reliable, daily supply of imaging probes to hospitals across the province. CPDC also works collaboratively with industry and academic partners, offering the research, manufacturing and regulatory expertise needed to move innovative probe technology and new therapeutic drugs from R&D labs to clinical use. CPDC, located on the McMaster University Campus, is a Centre of Excellence for Commercialization and Research, part of the Networks of Centres of Excellence Program. It is supported by the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research, GE Healthcare, Cancer
Care Ontario, and McMaster University.

About Lawson Health Research Institute

Lawson Health Research Institute, located in London, Ontario, is one of Canada’s largest and most respected hospital-based research institutes. As the research arm of London Health Sciences Centre and St. Joseph’s Health Care, London, and working in partnership with The University of Western Ontario, Lawson is committed to furthering scientific knowledge to advance health care around the world. Its state-of-the-art, 6,000 sq. ft. Cyclotron & PET Radiochemistry Facility opened on March 31, 2010 and includes a GE PETtrace 880 cyclotron with proton and deuteron acceleration capability, class 100 shielded hot cells, and automated chemistry units for producing F-18 and C-11 radiopharmaceuticals – all to GMP specifications.

Exciting stuff!

Vancouver’s (Canada) Café Scientifique; an origins story on May 28, 2013

Returning to  the back room at The Railway Club (2nd floor of 579 Dunsmuir St. [at Seymour St.], Vancouver, Canada), the next Café Scientifique Vancouver talk will be given by Lars Martin on Tuesday, May 28,  2013 at 7:30 pm. Here’s the talk description, from the announcement,

Nuclear Astrophysics at TRIUMF

Nuclear Astrophysics is the field of science that tries to explain the natural origin of all chemical elements. [emphasis mine] Scenarios that are studied in this field include the Big Bang, the life cycle of a regular star like our sun and cataclysmic events like supernovae. One key ingredient for this endeavour is the experimental study of nuclear reactions in accelerator labs like TRIUMF.

In his presentation Lars Martin will give an introduction into the field of nuclear astrophysics and describe some of the experiments he was involved with as a PhD student at TRIUMF.

That’s all I’ve got.