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MRI Centre at UNB celebrates 25 years

Author: UNB Newsroom

Posted on Oct 23, 2019

Category: UNB Fredericton , myUNB

The MRI Research Centre at the University of New Brunswick Fredericton recently celebrated its 25th anniversary.

Known as one of the largest material science MRI laboratories in the world, UNB’s MRI Research Centre is the leading university-based laboratory of its type in North America.

The centre is led by Dr. Bruce Balcom, professor and Canada Research Chair in UNB Fredericton’s faculty of science, in collaboration with Drs. Igor Mastikhin and Ben Newling, professors from UNB Fredericton’s faculty of science. The centre has attracted researchers and students from far and wide, many of whom have gone on to successful careers, both within and beyond their fields.

Dr. Steven Beyea, a professor at Dalhousie University and a successful MRI researcher, was one of the first undergraduate students to work in the centre.

“I can remember the day the magnet arrived. It was really exciting,” he says. “When I began at the centre, I had zero intent of doing physics or MRI research. My plan was to go to medical school.”

Once the magnet arrived and he started doing research in this area, the trajectory of his career shifted.

“This was a way for me to do physics, while still ultimately allowing me to be involved in medicine,” he explains. “Without question, when I look at the opportunities and experiences that I was afforded while working at UNB’s MRI Research Centre, I can really see how they helped lay the foundation for what I’m doing today.”

As the head of the scientific research program at the Biomedical Translational Imaging Centre, Dr. Beyea now leads an interdisciplinary team focused on researching and commercializing new diagnostic imaging technologies. Many of the people he’s hired to work at his lab come from UNB.

Kiana Mozaffari worked at centre during the summer of 2017. She’s currently a law student at Queen’s University.

“I am very grateful for my experience at the MRI Research Centre,” she says. “Having graduated with a bachelor of science in chemistry, I was worried about starting a new path in law. Thankfully, the organizational, research and time-keeping skills that I developed at the MRI Research Centre have become integral to my success during the last two years. I have used these skills both within law school and during my summer job with an international law firm.

"I also really enjoyed the working culture at the MRI Research Centre. I was surrounded by individuals who were extremely driven, kind, energetic and had often moved continents to be there. I hope to one day become a part of a team that is equally passionate about their work.”

Dr. Meghan Halse, a lecturer in the department of chemistry at the University of York, United Kingdom, also worked at the centre as an undergraduate physics summer student and MSc student. Her three years in the MRI Research Centre were instrumental in putting her on the path of her current career. She presently leads a research group focused on magnetic resonance method development. Dr. Halse looks back on her time spent at UNB with great fondness.

“What made my experience at the UNB MRI Research Centre unique was the hands-on experience that I was given, from designing and implementing experiments to processing the data and writing up the results for publication.

“Like all the best research centres, there is an ever-expanding family of people within the magnetic resonance community who have a connection because of our time spent at UNB,” she adds.

Graduates from the UNB MRI Research Centre have also found success in Fredericton. Dr. Derrick Green, cofounder, president and chief technology officer at Green Imaging Technologies, was also a student at the centre. Founded in Fredericton in 2006, Green Imaging Technologies is a leader in nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) solutions for special core analysis in the petroleum sector.

“I am proud to be the second PhD graduate from the UNB MRI Centre,” says Dr. Green. “It’s been extremely exciting to watch the centre grow into the world-renowned research facility that it is today. Personally, I can't imagine where I would be without the relationship I have with the centre.

“Following graduation, I was able to work for a leading medical MRI manufacturer in Cleveland, Ohio, and then returned home to commercialize technology developed at the MRI Center,” says Dr. Green. “To say my life has been influenced by the MRI Research Centre would be an understatement.”

Last August, a large number of current and former UNBers attended the International Conference on Magnetic Resonance Microscopy, which was held at Pitié Salpêtrière Hospital in Paris – Drs. Beyea, Halse and Green were among them.

“I am proud to say that UNB-connected people made up 10 per cent of that conference,” says. Dr. Balcom. “Over the years, the centre’s ideas and techniques have been adopted by numerous academic and industrial research laboratories. The MRI Research Centre has always been successful in its research. We certainly expect more innovation and more scientific breakthroughs in the future.”

Media contact: Angie Deveau

Photo: UNB representatives at the International Conference on Magnetic Resonance Microscopy (ICMRM) last August. Credit: Matthias Appel.