Published: 23 February 2016

Medical Physics MSc graduate shortlisted for SET for BRITAIN awards

Nicolle Dunkerley will present a poster on her dissertation project, conducted in collaboration with The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust, at a special Houses of Parliament event.

Now a trainee medical physicist who graduated from Surrey in 2015, Nicolle has been selected to present a poster at the final of the 2015 SET for BRITAIN awards at Portcullis House, Westminster, on March 7.

The awards highlight the work of early career researchers in academia or industry, and aim to create a forum for Members of the House of Commons and House of Lords to learn more about current research in engineering and physical sciences. The event is sponsored by Andrew Miller MP, Chairman of the SET for BRITAIN organising group of the Parliamentary and Scientific Committee.

Nicolle will present the results of her MSc dissertation project, ‘Using Cone beam CT data to Assess Delivered Dose to the Heart throughout Breast Radiotherapy’, which she conducted in collaboration with specialist cancer hospital The Royal Marsden. Under the supervision of Dr Ellen Donovan, a National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Career Development Fellow at The Royal Marsden and Dr Phil Evans, Professor of Medical Radiation Imaging in the University’s Centre for Vision Speech and Signal Processing (CVSSP), Nicolle researched Breath-Hold Radiotherapy treatment – a technique which can significantly reduce the cardiac dose for breast cancer treatments, which is becoming implemented throughout the UK. Breath-Hold Radiotherapy is when a patient takes, and holds, a breath for 20 seconds while the radiation treatment is delivered. This moves the breast away from the heart and reduces the low risk of heart damage even more.

The purpose of Nicolle’s study was to investigate whether CT (computerised tomography) images taken during Breath-Hold Radiotherapy treatment could be used to estimate the heart dose received and thereby provide further evidence for the benefits of this technique. She found that CT images showed there was a statistically insignificant difference between the predicted dose and the received dose to the heart, demonstrating that the Breath-Hold technique is a reliable option for treatment. This provided useful information for a broad programme to develop this technique nationally which is led by Dr Anna Kirby at The Royal Marsden and was supported by an NIHR Research for Patient Benefit award.

Nicolle, who is a trainee medical physicist in the highly competitive Scientist Training Programme, said: “I’m really excited to be selected to present my Surrey MSc project as a poster and to have the chance to explain to politicians a bit about what we do as medical physicists.”

Dr Silvia Pani, Programme director for the MSc Medical Physics, commented: “For her dissertation, Nicolle did excellent work on a complex and very useful project, and I was really pleased to see this recognised. Well done to her, and a big thank you to her supervisors Dr Donovan at The Royal Marsden and Professor Phil Evans at Surrey.”

Professor Evans commented: “It is very pleasing to see such a talented young scientist being recognised in this way and very well deserved. This is also a great result for the collaboration between CVSSP, Physics and our famous collaborators, such as The Royal Marsden.”

SET for BRITAIN aims to raise the profile of Britain’s early-stage researchers at Westminster by engaging Members of both Houses of Parliament with current science, engineering and mathematics research being undertaken in the UK. Around 100 parliamentarians are expected to attend the event, few of whom have science or technology degrees.

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