The Light Will Shine

Toasts and congratulations were the order of the day when it was announced the University of Saskatchewan will be home to one of Canada's largest and most significant scientific instruments.

The Canadian Light Source synchrotron, a highly sophisticated research tool valued at more than $170 million, will be erected at the U of S. The decision concludes four years of planning hustle. It was announced at a major news conference in Saskatoon that included two senior federal cabinet members, the Premier and members of the provincial cabinet as well as university and scientific community leaders.

The announcement is a major boost for the University of Saskatchewan's research capacity and reflects the expertise resident at the university's Saskatchewan Accelerator Lab.

The four-year construction phase will begin immediately on the facility that is about the size of a football field. Since Canada is the only major industrialized country without a synchrotron, researchers were forced to rent facilities in other countries.

Pressure to erect one in Canada prompted the appointment of an international committee of scientists to determine if a facility was needed and, if so, to examine potential sites. The finalists were the University of Saskatchewan and London, Ontario. The fact that U of S already had an accelerator laboratory tipped the scales in Saskatoon's favor.

Financing the overall package was contingent on securing support from the federally sponsored Canadian Foundation for Innovation. Approval came on March 31 giving the Canadian Light Source synchrotron the green light.

The decision is a feather in the cap of alums Ralph Goodale (BA'71, LLB'72), Saskatchewan's minister in the federal cabinet and chair of the cabinet committee on the economy, as well as premier Roy Romanow (QC, BA'60, LLB'64) who was active in selling Saskatoon as the synchrotron's site. A third grad of the U of S law school, Saskatoon's Doug Richardson (LLB'74), a veteran of the political scene and a former advisor to Prime Minister John Turner, was instrumental in marshalling support for the project.

U of S president George Ivany and Dennis Skopik, who heads the existing accelerator lab, are credited with starting the ball rolling on a Canadian-based synchrotron to replace Saskatoon's aging accelerator lab. The approval may be the crowning glory of Ivany's presidency which concludes at the end of June.

A synchrotron is a sophisticated facility that enables scientists to use powerful light beams for advanced research and measurement. The private sector - including the likes of pharmaceutical firms - is expected to become a user of the facility.

Both the research and business communities are excited about the opportunities presented by the synchrotron. It will attract research-intensive enterprises, generate new jobs and attract high level researchers to Saskatoon, strengthening the city's role as a research centre and demonstrating the importance of the University of Saskatchewan to the city.