The idea that damaging radioactivity could be present in our homes is unthinkable. Unfortunately it’s a reality for some.
Dr. Svetlana Barkanova, a nuclear physicist and professor of physics at Acadia University, will speak about this issue in a presentation titled “Modern Physics and Community Outreach: Radon Detection in Nova Scotia.” The presentation will take place on Thursday, Nov. 15, 7:30 p.m., in AS328 of the Arts and Science Building.
Dr. Barkanova’s research path started with studies on natural and artificial sources of environmental radiation on post-Chernobyl space. Since joining Acadia in 2003, Dr. Barkanova has put her unique expertise and experience into the Canadian context. One of her current projects is dedicated to the investigation of local levels of radioactivity due to radon, a colourless odorless gas created through decay of natural uranium.
“A significant fraction of homes in Nova Scotia have more that 200 Bq/m3 of radioactivity due to radon, which Health Canada considers to be ‘elevated’,” said Dr. Barkanova. “Prolonged radon exposure is the second leading cause of lung cancer after smoking. Fortunately, radon is not unbeatable. Once detected, the problem can be mitigated.”
The talk will describe the new Acadia University project, which allows physics students to collect radiation data and map radon levels across the province while gaining real-life hands-on research experience, exploring physics-geology links, improving their skills of group work, and helping their communities to alleviate the dangers of radon exposure.
This multiple-purpose project simultaneously focuses on teaching, community outreach, and research. It is also interdisciplinary, involving faculty and students from physics, computer science, geology, as well as researchers from Nova Scotia’s Department of Natural Resources.
“Currently, we also involve high-school physics teachers across Nova Scotia,” she said. “The teachers supervise their students in detecting radon in the homes around their region and contribute the data they collect to the university’s research database. Community members volunteering their houses for testing contribute to the modern physics research as well as directly benefit from this research results. Everybody wins.”
She said nuclear physics component is essential for the modern physics education, and now allows Acadia students to learn while serving the community.
“By participating in the community-based radon measurement project, students help to educate thousands of Canadians of the extent of the radiation danger, and the ways to mitigate the problem,” said Dr. Barkanova. “Together, we can save lives.”