An Enlightening Experience
By: Yue Yang Yu
Ever heard of a synchrotron? It’s x-hilarating (because it can emit x-rays)! Bad puns aside, the University of Saskatchewan is very fortunate to have the only synchrotron in Canada (The Canadian Light Source/CLS) on its campus! What is a synchrotron you might ask? In simple terms, it’s an enormous machine the size of several hockey rinks that creates light by firing electrons and accelerating them to near the speed of light with powerful electromagnets so that the electrons emit highly focused wavelengths of light from different spectra to study the interaction of light and matter with the samples that are prepared. On day three, all of the SHADs were fortunate enough to be given a tour of the synchrotron to learn how it works, ask questions, and also learn which studies it has contributed to.
Being the only synchrotron in Canada and alluring scientists from all around the world to work on it, everyone was incredibly honoured and excited to take a deeper look into it. Not to mention having been given a lecture on it the day before, the excitement was palpable. I for one, was lucky enough to be chosen to work further with the synchrotron as workshop material because I bid a majority of my points towards it. Originally, the group that attended the workshop was supposed to organize a project and work with the synchrotron to realize it however, the luck was not on our ends and the synchrotron was unfortunately down for the time being that SHAD would take place.
Unexpectedly, instead of being given further extensive tours on the synchrotron, the group was given an opportunity to work in the chemistry building of the university as well as the Saskatchewan Structural Sciences Centre (SSSC). This means that instead of performing an experiment with the synchrotron, the group of students would formulate an idea to experiment on, and use the equipment available to them from the alternative resources. Ultimately, the idea that was decided was to test how the degree of burning of food affects the levels of carcinogens. To further elaborate, because this year’s SHAD theme is resilience in Canadian communities in reaction to natural disasters, the food would be cooked over an open fire and the items selected were survival food (potatoes and canned sardines). After the samples were prepared: raw sample, cooked sample, burnt sample, charred sample, students were given the opportunity to do research over the course of an entire day on extremely expensive machines. Equipment such as the FTIR (Fourier-Transform Infrared Machine), NMR (Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Machine), XPS (Axis Sapra), and GC-MS (Gas Chromatography Mass Spectroscopy) were used. Not only did we complete our research, we identified conclusions from it: through the analysis of our results, we can support the statement that the levels of carcinogens such as acrylamide and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons rise as the starch based foods such as potatoes become charred. Additionally, we presented to several professors, CLS staff, and even the president of SHAD: Tim Jackson at the CLS building during a 45 minute PowerPoint presentation and Q&A. Undoubtedly the Canadian Light Source has been an incredibly unique and educational experience for all the SHADs.