IsoSiM Pushes for Professional Development

The Isotopes for Science and Medicine (IsoSiM) program, will continue to further their goal of training multidisciplinary scientists through their first ever summer school, which will be hosted at TRIUMF from June 22 to June 30.

The summer school will focus on teaching the program’s participants, senior undergraduate and graduate students, how to effectively communicate scientific topics that are both within and outside of their field of study. The school will push them to explore the applications of radioisotopes across the scientific spectrum through writing and presentation-skills based workshops.

The school’s instructor is Dr. Jean-luc Doumont, an internationally recognized science communicator.  He authored the guide “English Communication for Scientists” and has hosted numerous workshops and lectures about scientific communication. IsoSiM’s Program Coordinator, Monika Stachura, had the opportunity to listen to Dr. Doumont speak while at CERN and thought of him for this opportunity.

“He is very experienced in training young scientists,” said Stachura of Dr. Doumont. “He is a scientist himself. He has a PhD in applied physics and he knows how to talk about physics outside of the physics research circle.” The latter will be crucial in teaching the young researchers how to share their work with a wider audience.

The inspiration for such an event arose from discussion with IsoSiM students. “We had interviews with them,” explained Stachura. “All of our students have indicated that they would be really interested in having a workshop that would teach them how to write research articles and present their results.” She elaborated that there are limited resources available to students at that level. Other than watching TED talks or reading press releases, practical training opportunities are few and far between.

IsoSiM Scientific Coordinator Iris Dillman echoed the sentiments expressed by the students. “That’s one of the crucial [aspects] of being a scientist – being able to write papers.”

On top of training the students to become science communicators, the summer school, with the help of IsoSiM’s principal investigators, will continue to emphasize the multidisciplinary applications of radioisotopes. “We want to teach them about the applications of radioisotopes in medicine, general science and the environment,” said Stachura. “We want to train them to be aware that isotopes can be applied elsewhere.”

As an NSERC funded CREATE program, IsoSiM draws on the expertise of professors and researchers to highlight the various uses of radioisotopes in all scientific domains, ranging from medicine, earth and ocean sciences to material sciences. The program’s partnership is highlighted by the UBC researcher’s involvement in a number of TRIUMF programs, emphasizing the crossover of skills and knowledge. For example, researchers from UBC’s Department of Physics and Astronomy are involved in TRIUMF’s Accelerator Science, Nuclear Physics, Materials Science, and Nuclear Medicine divisions.

During the summer school, Stachura explained, the IsoSiM students will be paired with supervisors from a different field to write a press release about a selected topic. “For example, people studying Physics will go to the Earth and Ocean Science building,” she said.

While the summer school training sessions on June 22, 25, and 26 are closed to registered participants, there is a public lecture will be given by Jean-luc Doumont on Tuesday, June 30 at 10:00-12:00 in the TRIUMF auditorium about “Structuring Your Research Paper”.

The school will finish in the afternoon on June 30 with a panel discussion about “Career paths in industry for young researchers” with confirmed representatives from IsoSiM’s industrial partners from D-Pace, Lorax, AAPS, Nordion, GE Health Care, BC Cancer Agency, Advanced Cyclotron Systems, and a reception in the evening.

The Isotopes for Science and Medicine (IsoSiM) CREATE (NSERC Collaborative Research and Training Experience Program) program has been developed in response to the growing importance of applications of nuclear isotopes in a broad range of fields from environmental science, preclinical medical research, and characterization of new materials, to investigations of the foundations of the universe. 

 - Kelsey Litwin, Communications Assistant

Nic Zdunich