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Medical Physics Group PhD Prize

This is an annual prize for an outstanding thesis.


You can apply for the 2024 prize if you:

  • have recently submitted your PhD (or doctoral level equivalent) thesis (defined as having your PhD viva between 1 September 2023 and 31 August 2024);
  • are from an institution in the UK or Ireland;
  • are a member of the Institute of Physics; and
  • are not a paid employee of the IOP, a member of its Council, or a member of one of our group committees.

Note: we will liaise with other IOP groups so that no more than one group prize is awarded to the same applicant.

The submission should include:

  • your thesis abstract;
  • a list of your publications;
  • a covering letter that highlights how your work meets the prize’s criteria (maximum: 1,000 words);
  • a supervisor’s reference on your suitability for the award, including confirmation of the date and outcome of PhD viva (maximum: 500 words); and
  • a lay summary which will be used in public communications if you are awarded the prize (maximum 200 words).

Submissions will be judged by an expert panel. The primary criteria will be scientific excellence – this might be demonstrated by early-stage work with the potential to lead to a paradigm shift in medical physics; by exceptional investigation of a technique with immediate patient benefit; or anything in between. When judging we will also take into account:

  • originality (in conception and/or execution);
  • quality and clarity of presentation; and
  • rigour of research methodology and analysis.

The deadline for submissions is Friday 25 October 2024.

Informal enquiries and applicant submissions can be emailed to: [email protected].

Winners

2023

Dr Joshua Astley, University of Sheffield

For his thesis “The role of deep learning in structural and functional lung imaging.” 

Dr Astley’s work includes segmentation networks which are already improving clinical workflow and introduces a new AI-based tool which combines structural multi-inflation CT images in a novel manner to produce a functional ventilation map.

This research has resulted in seven papers to date along with numerous contributions to international conferences. According to committee member Sarah Bugby, “Along with the innovative science presented, the panel were particularly impressed by Dr Astley’s commitment to open data and research. Through involvement in initiatives such as the American Association of Physicists in Medicine CTVIE19 Grand Challenge and making the outputs of his PhD freely accessible he is contributing to the global research community and ensuring the benefits of his work are spread widely.” 

2022

Dr Edward James, University College London

Diffuse correlation spectroscopy (DCS) uses light to make non-invasive measurements of blood flow in the brain in real-time and has important potential applications in neuroscience and the clinical monitoring of patients suffering from stroke and traumatic brain injury, for example. Current techniques for monitoring blood flow in the brain, including ultrasound or MRI, cannot provide continuous and non-invasive measurements in a portable bedside setting. The research in this thesis addresses this important challenge. Reducing the cost and enhancing the performance of DCS blood flow monitoring systems is a step change in medical physics research that will allow for the more widespread clinical use of this technology. 

Not only does this approach lead to a significant improvement in blood flow sensitivity, but it also benefits from a 10-fold reduction in detector cost compared to conventional DCS. This results in ease of system scalability, which is an important consideration for achieving the end-goal of whole head coverage. The patient experience is improved as measurements can be obtained continuously at the patient’s bedside, using a wearable and non-invasive system, that has the potential to map blood flow in the brain. 

Comment from committee: Congratulations to Dr Ed James. This thesis is an interesting exploration of a new technology, we look forward to seeing how it develops in the future.

2021

Dr Oliver Pickford-Scienti, The Institute of Cancer Research

On the potential of multi-spectral x-ray and photoacoustic imaging to facilitate gold nanoparticle mediated dose-enhanced radiotherapy

This work combines a literature review, simulations and experimental studies to advance our understanding of the use of nanoparticles in radiotherapy – which have the potential improve cancer treatments in the future.

This research has resulted in five papers to date, along with follow-on funding from the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC). According to committee member Richard Amos: “This is novel research at the cutting edge of the imaging technique investigated. Although the clinical application of this technique will not be immediate, I have no doubt that Dr Pickford-Scienti’s work has brought this closer. This thesis is a great example of the application of the scientific process to a healthcare problem.”

2020

Dr Gemma Roberts, Newcastle University

Can we improve the early diagnosis of Lewy body disease with more accurate quantification of nuclear medicine scans?

This work investigates the quantification of two scintigraphic biomarkers for the diagnosis of dementia with Lewy bodies, defines new diagnostic thresholds and protocols, and has shown that it has improved the understanding of how age affects these markers – all of which will contribute to more accurate diagnoses.

This work has produced seven papers, either already published or under review, in international peer-reviewed journals and has contributed to Dr Roberts’ award of the Alzheimer’s Society Rising Star in dementia research in 2019.

According to committee member Sarah Bugby: “The work presented here is both significant and ambitious in scope, providing answers to a number of important research questions in the field. We were particularly impressed by the immediate benefit to patients due to this work, this is a great example of the role of physics in improving people’s lives.”

2019

Dr Elena Boto, University of Nottingham

Wearable magnetoencephalography

This ground-breaking work, applying optically pumped room temperature magnetometers, has enabled, flexible, adaptable wearable systems with immediate clinical application, making a true paradigm shift in this field.

This work has produced 12 major, highly cited papers in international peer-reviewed journals including one accepted for Nature. According to committee member Louis Lemieux: “Because of its much superior sensitivity, and capability to record brain activity from the neocortex and much deeper structures than currently possible non-invasively, this technology could replace scalp EEG in many applications.”