posted on Nov. 20: Radiation sciences institute provides one-of-a-kind forum


[img_inline align=”right” src=”” caption=”David Chettle”]McMaster's new Institute for Applied Radiation Sciences (MCIARS) will
fill an important need in research activities and
help the University build relationships, develop partnerships and link
research projects.

The research areas covered have particular significance to Canada as well
as a considerable general impact, markedly in
health care, states David Chettle, program co-ordinator, medical physics,
Faculty of Science. “The institute will assist
researchers and provide network opportunities. There is nowhere else in
Canada where such a forum exists.”

Funded by the Ontario Research and Development Challenge Fund (now the
Ontario Innovation Trust) and the
Canadian Foundation for Innovation, the institute's mandate is to foster
research and development using radiation
science and related skills to address problems that stretch across
disciplines. As Chettle explains, it “will promote
high-quality research and highly trained professionals by building on the
University's existing network of experts within
the nuclear and health care sectors.”

It will also assist researchers in building relationships with other
universities, and between industry, government
laboratories (such as those at Health Canada) and independent institutions.

Chettle is very upbeat about the concept. “It will draw together people
with overlapping interests and skills, and will be
a place to meet and provide a forum, to cement relations and take problems
one step further.”

He believes that McMaster provides the perfect location for such a venture.
In addition to having a reactor, a cyclotron
and an accelerator, the campus houses a medical centre. And there is the
proximity of the regional cancer centre and the
fact that the University has experts in nuclear dating, nuclear engineering
(research in the areas of reactor physics, fusion
technologies, thermal hydraulics), health/radiation and medical physics.
The result? A hothouse of research and
academic activity.

Chettle admits there might be a bias toward applications in the health care
fields but insists that projects will not be
limited to this. He points out that nuclear engineering is an important
part of the institute and it has major industrial

The institute's interdisciplinary thrust is not a new idea but academics
are becoming increasingly more aware of the
benefits of such cross-disciplinary activities. An interdisciplinary
approach can make it easier to shift direction, or to
partner with someone with different or complementary skills. Indeed, in
some cases, Chettle maintains, it is the only way
to tackle certain problems.

While the institute's thrust is research, faculty members in MCIARS are
also involved in an innovative joint venture in
education. Mohawk College's Faculty of Health Sciences and Human Services
and McMaster's Faculty of Science are
proposing to offer a combined B.Sc. in medical radiation sciences. The need
for such a program arises from a new
requirement established by the Association for Medical Radiation
Technologists (CAMRT).

The association provides national certification for graduates of
radiography, nuclear medicine and radiation therapy
programs. In 1995, it passed a motion requiring a degree as the entry-level
prerequisite for medical radiation technologists
in Canada, effective 2005. The proposed Mohawk/McMaster degree program
reduces course time to four years, from five
or six. In the spring, a course proposal was submitted to the Ministry of
Health for approval. The target date for first
intake of students is next September.*

There are some who have voiced concerns over a university-college
partnership. Chettle concedes that university
standards must always be maintained: “It still has to be a university
degree.” While he opposes the perception that a
degree is better than a technical college diploma, he acknowledges there
are differences between the two educational
systems. “People in colleges are trained for jobs that university grads are
not, and vice-versa.”

Amid all his optimism with the establishment of the institute, Chettle does
express one concern about the initial
funding it received. Very often, he says, government funders expect “a
short-term payoff.” However, a more long-term
view of the institute's goals is required. Many of the kinds of projects
that will be carried out here will need more
long-term support, he cautions. For this reason, he is actively seeking
different funding strategies for the future.

Chettle believes the institute will provide enormous benefits to the
University and the wider community. Top academics
will be attracted to the science, health sciences and engineering
Faculties; graduates will have an opportunity to work
with first-rate researchers; and because McMaster has a policy that all
faculty members must teach, undergraduates will
have the opportunity to hear from leading academics and be exposed to
current projects and methods.

He expresses every confidence in the institute's future successes. Given
the resources and knowledgeable people
already here, “McMaster can do this in spades.”

*The Daily News has been advised since the posting of this story that the target date for launch of this program is now Sept. 2002.