Canada's New Nuclear School will Prepare Students to Succeed in the 21st Century Economyby Michael Stephens
Professor Bereznai began his presentation with an animated virtual tour of the School, which will accept its first students in September 2003. The School will comprise five new interlinked buildings, which are currently under construction on the north campus of Durham College, north of Highway 401 and midway between the Pickering and Darlington Nuclear Generating Stations. The site abuts the south side of Winfield Farms (which includes the resting place of Northern Dancer).
UOIT came into being as a result of an Act of the Ontario Government in 2002 June. Durham was chosen to be UOIT's home for several reasons. Durham is the fastest growing region in Ontario, but has the lowest participation rate in post-secondary education. Besides the two nuclear generating stations, there are numerous nuclear services companies in the area that generate $100 million per year. The area is a leading contender to host the international ITER fusion reactor project. OPG is in the process of moving its Head Office from downtown Toronto to Durham.
Based on a market study of needed skills, UOIT will offer four-year Honours Bachelor programs in numerous fields, including education, justice studies, health science (nursing), physical and biological sciences, manufacturing engineering, nuclear engineering and radiation science. The School of Energy Engineering and Nuclear Science will offer the nuclear engineering and radiation science programs. The curricula are designed to produce graduates who have been prepared for the 21st century workplace by gaining an in-depth knowledge of the fundamentals of mathematics and science, as well as the creative and design abilities, research, analytical, communication and teamwork skills needed to pursue a career from entry level to leadership roles. A flexible learning environment will see every student equipped with a laptop computer, every classroom with a wired connection, and the other areas of the campus with wireless connection to the Internet.
The nuclear industry is experiencing renewed interest as demand for electricity generated by other than fossil fuels increases world wide. At the same time, numerous engineers and scientists are retiring or rapidly approaching retirement, and many university programs in the nuclear field have been closed or seen their enrollment decline to precariously low levels. In recent years, applications of radiation techniques have grown rapidly in medicine, industry and agriculture. As a result of these developments, the number of graduates produced by the existing nuclear programs in Canadian universities has not been able to meet the demand of the nuclear industry. For example, eight of Ontario's twenty power reactors were shut down in recent years due to an insufficient number of nuclear engineers needed to refurbish all of them at the same time. New engineers will be needed to run the units and to carry out further refurbishment to extend their lives, as well as to implement long-term waste management facilities and to renew the staff of the regulatory agencies. In parallel, the need for radiation scientists is growing with the ever-increasing applications of radiation in many areas, including medical therapy, magnetic resonance imaging, nuclear medicine, non-destructive examination of materials, food irradiation, sterilization of materials, production of composite materials and detection of explosives, and the attendant requirements for health physicists and regulatory staff.
UOIT and Durham College are responding to the needs of both students and employers. More and more career paths require university training. As a result, there is a need to ease the transition from college to university education, and students require flexibility in scheduling their activities. Together, UOIT and Durham College will offer a fully integrated post-secondary program that ranges from apprenticeships and technician college courses to PhD studies and a research park. UOIT's first year will see an enrollment of about 1000 students, with about 700 places in residence available. The School of Energy Engineering and Nuclear Science will have between 55 and 100 students. It is anticipated that the School will grow to about 500 undergraduate and 25 graduate students by its fourth year of operation.
The School will offer a variety of options in nuclear engineering, all having a common first year. The programs will include courses in mathematics, physical, biological and environmental sciences, engineering science and design, history of science, communications, safety, quality, ethics, and so on. The radiation science programs will include courses in organic chemistry, biological science, radiation chemistry, applications of radiation, etc. Besides lectures, courses will include tutorials, lab experiments, computer simulations, field trips, work placements, individual and group projects, internships, independent research and analysis, and documentation and presentation of findings.
The School will initially have only two full-time faculty members, but this number should increase to about 20-24 by the fourth year of operation. Research carried out will reflect the interests of the faculty and the available facilities (including facilities available at other universities, such as the McMaster Nuclear Reactor). Research Chairs are planned in such areas as management of nuclear knowledge (of which the industry has already lost much), simulation, radioactive waste management policy, alternative energy sources, conservation and demand management, and nuclear threat detection and public safety.
Lectures will be pre-recorded and placed on the Internet, along with the associated teaching materials. Students will then be able to retrieve the information whenever and wherever they want it. It is foreseen that students will eventually not need to come to the campus for lectures at all. (One of the many challenges at UOIT, noted Professor Bereznai, will be keeping 1000 identical laptop computers together with their proper owners!) The School is looking to engage retirees as tutors for a few years until it can build up a population of graduate students to take on that role. A couple of years from now, the School will be looking for lecturers who have industrial experience, and who are fully conversant and comfortable with modern information technology.
Details of the proposed courses will be posted on the UOIT website www.uoit.ca a few days from now. Professor Bereznai welcomes any comments on the proposed initial course offerings, as it is still possible to make adjustments. Comments should be emailed to Professor Bereznai at firstname.lastname@example.org.