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Graduate students take home top awards in medical physics research competition

Competing against researchers from other schools, including the University of Virginia, Johns Hopkins University and the University of Maryland, two graduate students from Virginia Commonwealth University took home first and second prizes in the Young Investigators Symposium at the Mid-Atlantic Chapter of the American Association of Physicists in Medicine’s annual conference.

“Some of the work they do in physics is sort of out there,” said second-place winner Brian Leong, M.S. candidate in the Medical Physics Graduate Program at the VCU School of Medicine. “My interest in medical physics is being able to take what I’ve learned from physics and apply it to more real-world scenarios to directly help people.”

Brian Leong (second from right) with Todd McNutt, 2015 president of the Mid-Atlantic Chapter of AAPM.
Brian Leong (second from right) with Todd McNutt, 2015 president of the Mid-Atlantic Chapter of AAPM.
Christopher L. Guy (second from right) with Todd McNutt, 2015 president of the Mid-Atlantic Chapter of the AAPM.
Christopher L. Guy (second from right) with Todd McNutt, 2015 president of the Mid-Atlantic Chapter of the AAPM.

Leong presented on results from a cancer stem cell growth model that he built in a computer simulation program to test how the stem cells respond to randomized radiation treatment schedules. From his results, he was able to provide an explanation on how cancers respond differently to radiation treatments and why some diseases are more difficult to treat than others.

“My work is interdisciplinary, combining biology into what we would normally do in physics,” Leong said.

First-place winner Christopher L. Guy presented on his dissertation project, which explores what happens when a collapsed lung re-expands during lung cancer treatment.

“It occurs fairly often,” the Ph.D. candidate and graduate research assistant said.

Findings from Guy’s research will be used to improve image registration in patients who have experienced lung re-expansion. “By developing an accurate registration algorithm we can create a plan adaptation that will allow either the tumor to get a larger dose of radiotherapy or that will spare more normal tissue, which is always a benefit to the patient,” Guy said.   

 

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