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Published: 16 October 2013

Radiotherapy researcher wins Faculty for the Future grant

A Faculty for the Future grant is providing Medical Physics PhD student Shakardokht Jafari with the vital funding to take her ground-breaking radiotherapy research to the next level – bringing her vision of establishing a radiotherapy centre in Afghanistan closer to reality.

Sponsored by the Schlumberger Foundation, the Faculty for the Future program awards fellowships to women from developing and emerging economies to pursue PhD studies in the physical sciences at leading overseas universities. A perfect candidate for the program, Afghanistan-born Shakardokht Jafari was in the second year of her PhD in radiation dosimetry when a change in her husband’s employment situation meant that she could not afford to continue her studies at Surrey, despite receiving an Overseas Research Scholarship.

Winning the Faculty for the Future grant – one of around 60 given to talented scientists around the world – means that Shakardokht will be able to stay at Surrey for the final year of her PhD. Having discovered a new way of measuring radiotherapy exposure levels using inexpensive glass beads, Shakardokht now plans to test the dosimeter (measurement tool) in the national dosimetry audit programme being led by the Royal Surrey County Hospital.

“I have already conducted initial successful testing with the Royal Surrey and will now be approaching the other centres taking part in the audit to see whether they are willing to test our dosimeter alongside the Alanine (the main type of dosimeter used for radiotherapy dosimetry audit).” She is confident that testing will validate the dosimeter she has developed, which is not only considerably cheaper than the conventional type but is also reusable and uses a less expensive, more readily available reading system.

The first woman from Afghanistan to apply for a Faculty for the Future fellowship, Shakardokht plans to return to her home country after completing her PhD to fulfil her long term ambition – to establish Afghanistan’s first radiotherapy centre since before the war. Having led this long-term project, which is supported by the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency), before coming to Surrey, she is looking forward to gathering with the project team – many of whom have gone abroad to train in radiotherapy – to see its culmination.

Shakardokht’s vision is very much in line with the philosophy of the Schlumberger Foundation, which has awarded Faculty for the Future grants to 323 women from 63 countries since its launch in 2004. Recognising the link between science, technology and socio-economic development, the Foundation aims to provide support for talented women scientists, who are in turn expected to contribute to the socio-economic development of their home countries.

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