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Putting the spotlight on an overlooked gem in isotopes

Putting the spotlight on an overlooked gem in isotopes

Isotopes play a vital role in our world. Whether it’s fighting the toughest diseases or providing a deeper understanding of our planet, they impact our lives in profound ways. When it comes to their production, one Canadian city has long flown under the radar as a major hub for innovation: Saskatoon. Thanks to the efforts of two esteemed local scientists, this expertise is about to be catapulted into the global spotlight.

In 2019, Dr. Chary Rangacharyulu and Dr. Lidia Matei, working alongside the then Tourism Saskatoon and its Legacy Project, developed a bid for the 11th International Conference on Isotopes, the flagship event of the World Council on Isotopes.

“The Legacy Project was created to first and foremost recognize the incredible efforts of individuals who have committed time and energy to bring world-changing business and sport events to the city,” said David Larson, Business Development Manager with Discover Saskatoon. “Within the program, we’ve created a network of Legacy Builders who connect us with new events to prospect, who mentor potential Legacy Builders, who provide testimony about working with Discover Saskatoon and our amazing partners, and who continue to promote Saskatoon as an event hosting destination.”


Dr. Chary Rangacharyulu, Professor          
University of Saskatchewan


Dr. Lidia Matei, Corporate Business Officer          
Sylvia Fedoruk Canadian Centre for Nuclear Innovation

This dedication paid off. Impressed by the city’s legacy in nuclear medicine, state-of-the-art facilities and breadth of expertise, the International Committee selected Saskatoon as the host destination for its 2023 event. This marks the second time that Canada will play host to the acclaimed conference; it was previously held in Vancouver in 1999.

Building on a rich legacy

The 11th International Conference on Isotopes will take place from July 23–27, and will be hosted by the Sylvia Fedoruk Canadian Centre for Nuclear Innovation, in partnership with University of Saskatchewan and Discover Saskatoon. It will bring together over 200 scientists, business professionals and industry leaders to discuss the many applications of isotopes — covering domains that span from medicine and agriculture to natural security.

Saskatoon is an ideal place to host the biennial event for an array of reasons. Chief among them, as Dr. Rangacharyulu explains, is its exceptional track record in using isotopes to revolutionize medicine.

“Saskatoon has a legacy of nuclear research and technology that dates back nearly a century,” says Dr. Rangacharyulu — who, in addition to his role as conference co-chair, works as a professor in Physics and Engineering Physics at the University of Saskatchewan. “Back in 1931, the city started a Radon plant and, in the 1950s, it established the world’s first calibrated Cobalt-60 cancer therapy unit — transforming care for millions of patients around the world.”

Even with this remarkable legacy, Saskatoon has largely remained undiscovered from a scientific and technological development perspective. As Dr. Matei, Corporate Business Officer of the Fedoruk Centre adds, that’s just one of the benefits that a conference like this can bring to the city.

“The International Conference on Isotopes will showcase what’s happening in Saskatoon, open the door to new business partnerships and put the spotlight on the cutting-edge technology we have — as well as offer a glimpse into what can happen here in the future,” she says.

Building an impactful agenda

More than ever, delegates have become increasingly selective on the events they choose to attend in person and are carefully weighing the benefits of travelling to a city. As Drs. Rangacharyulu and Matei knew, hosting it in Saskatoon would allow them to boost attendance by designing a program that’s truly meaningful and purposeful.

The conference program not only features thought provoking speaker sessions led by some of the biggest names in the isotope community, but also, exclusive tours that will take attendees behind the scenes of three state-of-the-art nuclear facilities. This includes the Saskatchewan Cyclotron Facility; the Canadian Light Source, the only synchrotron of its kind in Canada; and the PET Imaging Suite at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine. All are located within walking distance from each other on the University of Saskatchewan campus.

“That’s incredibly unique — you don’t often see so much capacity concentrated into one place,” Dr. Matei explains. “During the technical tours, participants will have the opportunity to see this innovative work while it’s in development and meet with passionate experts who are shaping the future of isotopes research.”

This year’s conference will also feature poster sessions that will showcase the latest technological advances and products in isotopes. Additionally, as a pre-conference activity, there will be a summer school that will give young professionals and graduate students hands-on training in various aspects of isotopes, including radiochemistry, radiation physics and biomedical sciences.

Experiences that inspire

A vibrant Prairie city with diverse population, Saskatoon offers plenty of ways to be immersed in its local cultures. In between sessions, attendees will have the chance to take part in a host of enriching activities. This includes a trip to Wanuskewin Heritage Park, the longest-running archeological dig in Canada that interprets over 6,000 years of Northern Plains Indigenous culture. They can also visit the Western Development Museum, the largest human history museum in Saskatchewan that’s home to over 75,000 artifacts.

“Not only will attendees be impressed by the science behind the conference, but I have no doubt that they’ll enjoy everything around Saskatoon and get a real sense of the local flavour of the city,” Dr. Matei says. “The unique experiences of the Prairies are something to be remembered.”

A powerful opportunity

Beyond the direct tourism benefits, conferences also have the power to leave a lasting mark in local communities — from attracting top-notch talent to spurring research collaborations. When reflecting on the future impact of the 11th International Conference on Isotopes, its co-chairs are confident that their efforts in bringing it to Saskatoon will open the door to new possibilities in the sector.

“We want to show delegates that we’re not sitting on the laurels of our history in Saskatoon, but that we’re at the forefront of using modern technologies to create a better world,” adds Dr. Rangacharyulu. “By bringing the conference here, we can showcase these innovations to the global isotope community — which will ultimately serve as a catalyst for future growth.”

The Canadian Visionaries Network

Meet the Canadians, like Dr. Chary Rangacharyulu and Dr. Lidia Matei, whose innovation and sector leadership are attracting international business events to Canada.

Learn more about the Canadian Visionaries Network