By Stephen Huebl
If everything goes according to plan, Ryerson professors will be able to conduct research on campus using open sources of radiation by this all.
Julia Lewis, director of the Center of Environmental Health & Safety, said Ryerson is working on expanding its current license which already allows the sealed use of radioisotopes on campus.
“It will expand the scope of research so that we’ll be consistent with other universities,” she said. “It will keep us cutting edge.”
Mario Estable, a research scientist and professor of biochemical engineering at Ryerson, said the solution up until now has been to carry out that part of the research at other facilities, such as the University of Toronto.
“Collaboration is good, but it should be based on an intellectual decision,” he said. “This collaboration is based on a deficiency we have on campus when working with radioisotopes.”
Since coming to Ryerson, Estable said he has not been able to do a single project using radioisotopes, which are the “bread and butter” of his research.
Estable said radioisotopes are used to “label” DNA, RNA and proteins, and that without them, it is “virtually impossible to do modern molecular biology and biochemistry.”
He said research using open sources of radioisotopes is done at universities across Canada, the United States and even in Third World countries.
The ability to use open sources of radioisotopes would be a great benefit to the university, according to Estable. He said it could lead to more research grants and might attract new faculty members.
“It’s a stumbling block not having an open radiation source,” he said. “To bring in good molecular and biochemist, you need to proper licensing and equipment.”
Estable noted that it is essential the university invest in a full-time radiation safety officer for training and inspections.
Without the proper storage, training and monitoring that is required, Estable said the consequences could be “catastrophic.”
He said exposure to the radiation could cause mutations and lead to the individual developing cancer.
Lewis said the Centre of Environmental Health & Safety must first undergo an audit, and ensure the proper training and waste disposal is in place before it can go ahead with the application to amend its license.
Estable said he would love to start working on projects within six months, but doesn’t mind waiting an extra few months if it means ensuring everything is done right.