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Lab a Canadian first for environmental science


Toronto, ON – May 5, 2004 – A new facility unveiled this week at the University of Toronto provides an unprecedented view of the molecular secrets found in organic matter – shedding new light on fields such as climate change, environmental contamination and forensic science.<br>
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The Environmental Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) Centre is said to be the first of its kind in Canada dedicated to research in environmental science.<br>
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Husband-and-wife researchers Myrna Simpson, an assistant professor of environmental chemistry, and Andre Simpson, an assistant professor of chemistry and the new facility’s director of NMR research, will supervise activities at the $2.47-million facility. Bruker BioSpin Canada donated the facility’s instrumentation – a gift-in-kind worth $1.57 million – while the Canada Foundation for Innovation, Ontario Innovation Trust and U of T each provided $300,000.<br>
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The lab’s specially designed NMR spectrometer and innovative technology allows researchers to create a computerized molecular map of the compounds present in organic matter. Researchers are compiling a database of compounds that have already been analysed to ease subsequent identification of samples.<br>
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“Any research is limited by the quality of the research tools,” says Myrna Simpson. “By having access to this unbelievable instrumentation, we’re going to be able to make leaps and bounds in our understanding of environmental processes. We’ll be able to solve a lot of fundamental problems.” The instrument can also be used to scan a sample on multiple occasions over a period of time, providing a “time-lapse” glimpse of decomposition, she adds.<br>
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Professor Kwong-loi Shun, vice-president and principal of the university’s Scarborough campus, where the lab is located, says the Environmental NMR centre will allow the university to make dramatic strides as a leading centre for environmental research in Canada and around the world. “It is wonderful to see excellence in teaching, learning and research thriving here at UTSC,” he says. The NMR facility is already attracting collaborators, including other Canadian scientists.<br>
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Installation of the NMR spectrometer began in October 2003 and was completed in March with the assistance of one of Bruker BioSpin’s engineers who travelled from Germany to help with assembly of the technology.<br>
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“Bruker BioSpin is very proud to support the innovative research programs of professors Andre and Myrna Simpson,” says Dr Henry Stronks, executive vice- president of Bruker BioSpin Canada. “University-based research will play a critical role as Canada continues to move toward a knowledge-based economy and Bruker BioSpin is excited to be a partner with the University of Toronto and Andre and Myrna Simpson as we work together to pioneer new magnetic resonance methodologies for the analysis of soil and organic matter.”<br>