An Investment with High Returns: An MRI for molecules puts a new spin on scientific research at Saint Mary’s University

Dr. Jason Masuda in his lab at Saint Mary’s University (photo courtesy of St. Mary's University)

Dr. Jason Masuda in his lab at Saint Mary’s University (photo courtesy of St. Mary’s University)

Jason Masuda stands at the doorway to a workroom frequented primarily by scientists. “No cell phones or laptops beyond this point,” cautions the Saint Mary’s University Chemistry professor.  “And no pace-makers.”

In the corner of the room sits the preeminent technology available for helping chemists and researchers determine the structure of molecules: a nuclear magnetic resonance spectrometer.

“This instrument is a vital tool for researchers at Saint Mary’s who see green chemistry as the key to sustaining our natural resources,” says Dr. Masuda. “It may look like a high-tech water heater, but the NMR spectrometer contains a very powerful superconducting magnet, equivalent in strength to almost 1500 regular refrigerator magnets. In addition to helping my colleagues do research that generates grants to solve chemistry-related problems, it equips our undergraduate students, graduate students and post-doctoral researchers with valuable skills they’ll take with them into the world.”

Funding of $171,787 towards the total cost of $429,468 for the spectrometer came from the Nova Scotia Research and Innovation Trust (NSRIT) in 2012. Additional support came through vendor discounts and matching funds for research infrastructure through the Canada Foundation for Innovation.

“It’s an investment with high returns,” says Dr. Masuda. “So far, this one piece of equipment has resulted in 28 peer-reviewed publications, 6 speaking engagements, and 26 presentations at conferences. It has also enabled researchers at Saint Mary’s to collaborate throughout the Maritimes and as far away as the U.S., Australia and Germany. The first step in discovering environmentally friendly industrial processes could very well take place in this room.”

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