Beavering away in Saskatchewan


During July-August of this year I visited the University of Saskatchewan in Canada as part of my sabbatical leave. The university is the largest in the province (about 30,000 students), and hosts the Canadian Light Source synchrotron, and a large engineering school.

The visit was hosted by Prof Safa Kasap in the Computing and Electronic Engineering Department. Prof Kasap has been an invited speaker at two of the MacDiarmid Institute’s AMN conferences, and is the author of a well known text in materials science, editor of Journal of Optical Materials, and the founder of the ICOOPMA series of conferences. His research group is active in the area of amorphous selenium imaging plates for X-ray imaging, and it is this common interest in X-ray imaging with the Radiation Imaging and Detection Group at Victoria University which was the basis for the visit. During the visit, we undertook collaborative research on red–emitting Xray phosphors, which are better matched to current generation semiconductor detectors than the traditional photomultipliers. Measurements were performed on samples made at VUW and using the UoS cryogenic spectroscopic facilities. The visit also laid the ground work for a joint project on the CLS, which should be a valuable preliminary for forthcoming use of the Melbourne synchrotron.

The UoS has a very spacious and attractive campus on 1000 acres which it cannot yet fill, located beside the South Saskatchewan river. A daily delight was to walk to work and inspect the nocturnal lumberjack activities of the resident campus beaver, who felled one tree per night before being evicted by the not-so-delighted university groundsman. The summer months were fi ne and dry, but it was perhaps no coincidence that I returned before the onset of winter and the challenge of exceeding last year’s minimum temperature of -46°C. However, the Canadians are well used and prepared for these temperatures, with electric cables protruding from the cars implying sump heaters, not electric cars.