Most communications staffers have degrees in journalism, communications or public relations. Tim Meyer has a PhD in particle physics from Stanford University.
It comes in handy when dealing with government, private industry or the press, because his job is to explain what goes on at TRIUMF, Canada’s national particle and nuclear physics lab.
Explaining why scientists in Vancouver need $63 million to build a superconducting electron accelerator (the ARIEL) is one recent example.
Before coming to Vancouver to work at TRIUMF in 2007, Meyer worked for the National Academy of Sciences in Washington, D.C. He arrived in Vancouver around the time Canada’s NRU reactor began suffering a series of shutdowns, which curtailed the production of isotopes used in nuclear medicine and opened a door for TRIUMF.
“It was a really interesting time to join the laboratory,” Meyer said. “We already work with isotopes. So if the nation is suffering the isotope question, who better to start taking a look at it?”
Although a lot of the work at TRIUMF is pure scientific research, some of the discoveries have commercial applications, and part of Meyer’s job is to liaise with the private sector.
“We see ourselves as halfway between pure business and pure university,” Meyer said, adding the lab also looks for international partnerships with labs and universities around the world.
One recent such partnership is with the University of Manitoba and Japanese scientists.
“Last year, Japan put $4 million into a project at TRIUMF,” Meyer said. “It’s a very elegant science project. Japan is saying, ‘The people in Canada are really sophisticated and really capable – let’s work with them.’ It’s a big pat on the back for Canadian science.” •