Title: MRI machines and Van Gogh, Teabags and IQs: My recent journey through physics in medicine and biology
Speaker: Dr. Fiona MacNeill
Institute: McMaster University
Location: ABB 102
In January 2016, Soo Hyun Byun, David Chettle and I all joined the Department of Physics and Astronomy. We all run applied nuclear physics research programs and we collaborate extensively. Our students are registered in graduate programs in radiation sciences: medical physics, health and radiation physics and radiation biology. As the Director of the Interdisciplinary Graduate Programs in Radiation Sciences, I will start my symposium by explaining how our applied physics research underpins these three distinct disciplines.
I will then introduce my own research program. I, and my graduate students, develop radiation-based biomedical devices for the study of toxic elements in people. We design, build, and test the devices and apply them in studies of human health. In this seminar, I start by discussing the recent system development of two novel biomedical devices.
We were the first research group in the world to develop a neutron activation analysis (NAA)-based system for fluorine in hand bone and test it in volunteers. I will explain why I was interested to study fluorine, describe the NAA system, show data from the first pilot study of people in the Hamilton area, and explain why tea drinking is significant for fluoride exposure in our city. Similarly, we are the first research group to build both NAA and x-ray fluorescence (XRF)-based systems for the study of gadolinium (Gd). I will explain why we care about exposure to this rare earth, and describe these novel biomedical devices. I will show the Gd in vivo measurement data that we have obtained to date.
I will then (briefly) show the public health impact of this kind of research, with reference to lead exposure, and explain how we can apply technology to the study of art. I will finish with a short description of how these biomedical techniques led to some interesting collaborations in radiation biology. Along the way, I will explain why I laid myself in an MR machine, bought every locally available brand of teabags, why UV effects on people may be more significant than we previously thought, and tell you all about the fear you can feel when you x-ray a $5 million Van Gogh.