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Solving Problems, with Ken Buckley

09 October 2015
A staff member at TRIUMF since 1987, Ken Buckley spent most of his career working with the PET Program. Today, he is the Project Manager of the Tc-99m production effort in the Life Sciences Division. His team includes several technicians, chemists and engineers at TRIUMF as well as teams at BC Cancer Agency, the Centre for Probe Development and Commercialization in Hamilton, and the Lawson Health Research Institute in London, Ontario.

In the words of Ken:

As project manager, I’m figuring out what other people are working on, what they need to continue doing. I help people solve whatever problem they may have. The team I work with is very creative and very dedicated to what they are doing. And I think they, like me, like to solve problems.

The highlight of my career is the project I’m currently working on, having developed another way of making Tc-99m. It’s been pretty exciting to work on something that potentially changes the way the world does business. To be doing something that has a wide impact on that scale is pretty rare.

TRIUMF has grown quite significantly while I’ve been here. I spent most of my career within the PET program. One of my favourite memories is when we installed the first commercial PET scanner at the UBC hospital. There’s a picture of Tom (Ruth) and I – when we were much younger – receiving the scanner in the loading bay at the hospital. That was kind of a neat moment. That was the largest purchase order that UBC had ever made at the time; it was $3M. We were surprised, we thought $3M in the scheme of UBC is not that much, but they had never purchased a single object that was that expensive.

One of my favourite books is called The Soul of the New Machine. It is about the team that built one of the early mini computers and the effort that went into it to meet commercial deadlines. The tone of it was the excitement of working on an intense but short time frame project. That was one of the attractions of getting involved in the Tc-99m Project.

Although we couldn’t find the 1991 photo of Tom and Ken receiving the PET scanner at UBC hospital, here is a photo of Tom (left) and Ken celebrating the retirement of the scanner in 2008.

- by Nic Zdunich and Melissa Baluk, Communications