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Research Facilities

McMaster is Canada’s nuclear university. Researchers and students in the Interdisciplinary Graduate Program in Radiation Sciences and Health and Radiation Physics (Radgrad) have access to nationally, and internationally, unique research facilities, including a 5 MW pool-type research reactor.

The McMaster Nuclear Reactor (MNR)

MNR offers a suite of facilities found nowhere else in Canada, including the Neutron Activation Analysis (NAA) facility, the 60Co hot cell irradiation facility, the neutron radiography and various other reactor beam ports for their work. The NAA facilities allow graduate students access to prompt and delayed activation of small sealed samples using the pneumatic ‘rabbit’ system. In addition, the reactor can be used to make some specialty radioisotopes for specific research projects by using other sites in the reactor core. All graduate students registered in the Health and Radiation Physics and Radiation Sciences – Medical Physics degrees will take courses that use the McMaster Nuclear Reactor. Most students registered in Radiation Sciences – Radiation Biology will also access the facility.

Two graduate students using the manipulators to work with radioactive materials in a hot cell.

The McMaster Accelerator Laboratory (MAL)

MAL hosts three linear accelerators and a cyclotron; in addition, the MAL staff manages the Taylor Radiobiology source. The McMaster Tandetron Accelerator is a source of low energy neutrons for the testing and development of new types of radiation detectors, primarily detectors that can be used for radiation dosimetry. This facility also has an in vivo measurement facility where the world’s first studies on manganese, magnesium and fluoride in the bone of volunteers were conducted and has been used to study exposure to aluminum.

The McMaster KN accelerator is an additional, lower fluence, source of low energy neutrons. The KN accelerator has been used to study detector responses and evaluate the relationship of neutron fluence, energy spectrum and dose with angle from both thin and thick Li targets. The soon-to-be completed McMaster Microbeam Facility will incorporate a radiobiology laboratory with a single particle irradiation system. The University owns and operates the cyclotron in partnership with Centre for Probe Development and Commercialization (CPDC), a not-for-profit entity that was spun out from the University in 2008. CPDC produces radioisotopes for local health centres.

In addition, MAL also houses a number of x-ray facilities employing low energy x-ray sets or radioisotope sources. McMaster has one of only two in vivo bone lead XRF measurement systems in Canada, the only system for the in vivo measurement of strontium, and is currently developing systems for the in vivo measurement of chromium, iron and gadolinium. Some of the x-ray facilities are used for the study of tissue samples with an end goal of finding new sensitive methods for differentiating between healthy and diseased tissue.

A student working with electronics in the McMaster Accelerator Laboratory.

A student measuring bone samples using X-ray Fluorescence technology

The Taylor Radiobiology Source

This is a calibrated 137Cs source that can be used for studies of the effect of y-radiation on living systems. The source can provide a variety of doses and dose rate irradiations. In recent years, researchers have primarily used the Taylor source to study the effects of low doses of radiation on cell systems.

Hamilton Health Sciences and St Joseph’s Health Care, Hamilton

Radgrad maintains strong research links with the local Hamilton hospital system. This allows Radgrad students access to clinical radiation therapy facilities at the Juravinski Cancer Centre and imaging facilities at St Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton and the McMaster University Medical Centre site. Imaging facilities include computed tomography (CT), single-photon emission computed tomography (SPECT), positron emission tomography (PET), and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

Tools on a hanging rack.