28 November 2016
Sam Pitman, a PhD student in the Engineering Department and the Cockcroft Institute, has won the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) best student poster prize at the joint IET/IMechE/IoP Particle Accelerator Engineering Network meeting at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory. Sam presented a talk about her research into using an RF linac to increase the energy of protons from cyclotrons in hospitals from 250 MeV to 350 MeV.

At 350 MeV, the protons travel through the body and can be used for imaging, giving the bodies proton-stopping power that is needed to plan any proton therapy for treatment of cancer. Sam is currently based at CERN where she is working on testing the system.

Driven by her early success, Sam says: “Particle accelerators are such an exciting field of research, and it is wonderful to have the opportunity to work on a medical application with such a positive social impact. Working at CERN on the forefront of high-gradient technology is a dream come true!”

The technology will enable proton imaging of adults that can help improve the accuracy of proton therapy. Radiotherapy with protons is important in some cancer treatments as its greater treatment accuracy can reduce side effects, for example when treating some cancers in children. Whilst two new NHS proton treatment centres are under construction in the UK that will provide state-of-the-art treatments, the proton imaging based on this prototype will enable the most accurate pre-treatment images of patients, improving on the imaging used today which is based on x-ray imaging.