Development of ionization track structure models and micro-dosimetry formalism for clinical hadron beams

The project aims to develop radiation biology models and simulation approaches for using micro-dosimetric data in cancer radiotherapy treatment planning, using proton and hadron beams.

4 years
Application deadline
Funding source
University of Surrey
Funding information

The studentship is fully funded (University fees and student stipend), with a stipend of approximately £15,000 per year.


Hadron therapy is the fastest growing cancer treatment strategy providing therapeutic advantages for treatments where a localised energy deposition and/ or sparing of healthy tissues is required. The NHS has invested over £250m for two clinical centres and several private initiatives are ongoing to support world-class cancer treatment in the UK. However, there are still scientific and technological challenges that need to be addressed in order to achieve hadron therapy's full potential, for instance accounting for the increased effectiveness of hadron beams compared to photons. Despite it being well understood that biological effects are driven by the dose distribution at the micrometre scale, this is currently not taken into account in clinical practice due to the lack of tools and methodology to perform accurate and reproducible micro-dosimetric measurements in clinically relevant settings.

This project aims at studying and developing the methodology and the formalism for the definition of micro-dosimetric quantities directly linked to radiobiological response and their implementation in Treatment Planning Systems (TPS). Despite technological progress in the measurement of dosage absorbed from ionizing radiation, there is still a substantial lack of definition of the key quantities that define the track structure of charged particles and its formalism for reliable clinical applications. In collaboration with ongoing radiation detection research, this project will critically evaluate existing and new experimental data developing methods for quantitative assessment of track structure with the final aim of defining operational quantities and approaches for their implementation in dedicated radiobiological models. A key aim of the project is to collect a set of accurate radiobiological data on clinical relevant proton and carbon ion beams with well–characterised track structures. Monte-Carlo approaches, analytical description and alternative techniques will be used to investigate integration methods of radiobiological and physical response models into TPS. The radiobiological calculations will be carried out using two clinically relevant and complementary models, the Microdosimetric Kinetic Model (MKM) and the Local Effect Model (LEM4). A study for a combined LEM-MKM as alternative approach to correlate the radiobiology to nano-dosimetric quantities will be also carried out.

The student will take part in experimental campaigns at national and international clinical facilities and will interact with micro-dosimetry and modelling experts. The project is multidisciplinary with components of radiation biology, dosimetry and computer simulations interacting with clinical, research and industrial partners. Collaboration between international leading institutes in Italy, Austria and the UK will provide the student with access to a unique range of multidisciplinary expertise, equipment and facilities. The project will deliver high-impact research papers and will attract interest from industry and healthcare providers offering unique career development opportunities to the student.

Related links
NHS - What is proton beam therapy International Atomic Energy Agency International Commission on Radiation Units and Measurements Radiation Biology: A Handbook for Teachers and Students

The project is part of a collaboration between the University of Surrey, the National Physical Laboratory (NPL) and the Istituto Nazionale di Fisica Nucleare (INFN, Italy).

Eligibility criteria

To be eligible, you will be a UK or EU applicant, holding a First or 2:1 UK honours degree in a relevant subject area, or a 2:2 alongside a good masters degree (a distinction is usually required).

If English is not your first language, you will be required to have an IELTS Academic of 6.5 or above (or equivalent), with no sub-test score below 6.

How to apply

Applications can be made through our Physics PhD course page. Please state the project title and supervisor clearly on your application.

Physics PhD

Application deadline

Contact details

If you have any queries, please contact Prof. Giuseppe Schettino or Dr Francesco Romano.

Giuseppe Schettino
14 BC 04
Telephone: +44 (0)1483 689320

Research areas


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