University of Saskatchewan

September 30, 2014   

How I Spent My Summer Vacation

Shane Journeay (photo by Liam Richards)
August 14, 2006

There's a big future for small research at the U of S campus

 Monday, August 14, 2006

(>First of a weekly series)

By Jeremy Warren

For The StarPhoenix


University of Saskatchewan student Shane Journeay holds up a small vial, which is about a third full of what appears to be a clear liquid.


"To you, this just looks like water," said Journeay, a toxicology PhD student in the Western College of Veterinary Medicine. "But really there are hundreds of thousands of nanotubes, a type of nanoparticle, in this vial."


The nanotube Journeay is studying was designed by an Alberta scientist and has potential applications for animal and human health that include drug development for lung disease, cancer treatment and coatings for orthopedic implants.


The goal is to understand how this particular nanoparticle -- about 1/1000th the width of a human hair -- affects living cells and tissues. This information could help prevent possible health hazards from exposure to these nanoscale materials.


Nanotechnology involves engineering materials at the scale of molecules and atoms. Its many applications include sensors for cancer diagnosis, more effective sunscreens, and more efficient consumer electronic devices.


"While researchers have been aware of nanoparticles for decades now, going back to studies on air pollution, the ability to control the design of particles with unique chemistry and function at the nanoscale is relatively new," said Journeay.


Growing numbers of researchers work with nanoparticles. Commercial quantities of nanomaterials will likely be manufactured in the future, he says.


"As greater quantities are produced, more information will be required on the possible environmental, health and occupational safety of this new technology," he said.


Toxicology studies have traditionally focused on large particles. But particles on the nanoscale are much smaller and more reactive, which may predispose them to enter the body in places such as deep lung tissue that their larger counterparts can't reach.


"Our understanding of how nanoparticles interact with living tissue is in its infancy," Journeay said.


"Nanotechnology holds tremendous potential. How do we balance the promising societal benefits of the technology with the potential environmental and health issues?"


Journeay, 27, is one of only 10 Canadians selected by the Canadian Foundation for the International Space University to attend the International Space University's summer session in Strasbourg, France.


For 10 weeks this summer, he is attending seminars about space technology and policy, and is participating in one of several research projects.


The class includes graduate students and professionals from the space industry, such as NASA executives.


May teach NASA experts


As one of the few Canadian researchers studying the compatibility of nanomaterials on animal and human tissue, Journeay might teach the NASA experts a few things.


Opportunities like this enhance the educational experience of students, he says.


"The sheer potential of nanotechnology keeps me interested in the research. It has been said nanotech could be the next industrial revolution. To be a part of something like this everyday is fascinating," he said.


Journeay has received scholarships from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.


His supervisor, Baljit Singh, receives funding from NSERC and the Alberta Agricultural Research Institute.


"I've been really fortunate to have a supervisor who encourages me to get out of the lab and network and meet similar researchers," said Journeay, who is part of a U of S health research group on immunology that brings together the expertise of faculty and students from across campus.


Journeay may have more travelling to do after returning from France: He has an invitation to speak about nanotechnology in the workplace at a United States Environmental Protection Agency conference in September.


*This article is part of a partnership initiative between The StarPhoenix and University of Saskatchewan Research Communications Office to highlight the work of student researchers and showcase the efforts of student writers and photographers.



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