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Development of an emergency personal dosimetry system for ionizing radiation exposures using alanine-based chip cards


   Public Health

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  Dr Jonathan Eakins  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

About the Project

PROJECT BACKGROUND

It is critical to assess the amount of ionizing radiation received by an individual or individuals in a radiation emergency; examples include accidental exposures from the increasing use of ionizing radiation in healthcare, industry, or research, as well as the ever-present threat of malicious or terrorist attacks using radiological agents. Such a dose assessment greatly assists medical professionals in identifying the optimum treatment and, in the case of a mass-casualty exposure, aids triage of the most exposed people to best allocate limited medical resources.

For these reasons, considerable global research effort has been expended to investigate retrospective dosemeters, i.e., objects that may be analysed after a radiological incident that provide indicators of the absorbed doses received by individuals and/or groups who are not routinely monitored.

The research team, including the United Kingdom Health Security Agency (UKHSA), the University of Oxford, and Global Resonance Technologies (GRT) in the United States, are world leaders in radiation emergency preparedness and retrospective dosimetry, with established links to global networks including through the WHO and IAEA. This team is developing a new Emergency Radiation Dosimetry System (ERDS) that utilizes an alanine dosimeter read-out using an advanced Electron Paramagnetic Resonance (EPR) measurement system. The alanine composition will be optimized to be sensitive to photons and neutrons, to create an alanine chip that can be embedded easily into everyday objects routinely carried by individuals, such as identification cards. This can then be used to estimate doses to those individuals following an accidental or malicious exposure to high levels of radiation, permitting large numbers of individuals to be quickly assessed and triaged.

PROJECT DESCRIPTION

Whilst the ERDS project is already established, there are still a number of questions that remain related to alanine dosimetry, and many factors that need to be addressed to further develop and convert the current state-of-the-art in scientific knowledge into a working system of emergency dosimetry for roll-out in the UK and the US. The current PhD studentship aims to explore and assist in the resolution of these issues, in parallel with continued collaboration with GRT. The ultimate aim of the PhD project is to develop a prototype alanine dosimetry service, as a proof-of-concept that such a capability is possible and can reliably deliver dose estimates for potentially large numbers of exposed individuals (e.g., >1 million individuals) in a short timeframe (e.g., 24-48 hours).

The multidisciplinary nature of the proposed project means that it is open to development according to the interests of the student. Nevertheless, it is anticipated that the main tasks within the PhD project may be broken down into three key areas:

1)    Establishment of the laboratory environment and acquisition of the necessary skills and knowledge of the appropriate experimental techniques;

2)    Conducting novel research, both in terms of physical experiments with alanine cards and the card reader (including further optimizing the alanine dosemeters to get the best radiation response) as well as mathematical modelling of system deployment in response to exposure scenarios;

3)    Exploration of the various factors and issues that need to be resolved to transform the laboratory protocols and results into a useable, mass-scale dosimetry service.

The experimental work will be carried out primarily in the Secondary Standards exposure facilities of the UKHSA located in Chilton, near Oxford, UK. This will include use of a suite of X-ray and radionuclide fields. Time will also be spent performing measurements at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in the United States under a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) with GRT.

The student will also be expected to participate in appropriate committees of the National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements (NCRP) as an invited member, and attend national and international meetings and conferences as needed.

THE PhD PROGRAMME

The PhD will be hosted at UKHSA in Chilton, Oxfordshire, in collaboration with the University of Oxford, where the student will be affiliated with the Department of Physics and their assigned / selected Oxford College.

REQUIREMENTS

The applicant must be eligible for a three-year period of study in the United Kingdom, and also be able to spend periods of time visiting the United States.

The successful applicant is expected to have, or will shortly receive, an undergraduate degree classified at 1st or 2:1 (honours) in physics or other related physical science. A postgraduate Master’s degree in a relevant field may also be an advantage.

Proficiency in written and spoken English is mandatory.  

HOW TO APPLY

Email the below documents as a single PDF file to [Email Address Removed] by 17:00 on Friday 20 January 2023:

·       An up-to-date CV;

·       A personal statement setting out why you are suitable for this position (max. 1000 words);

·       Undergraduate degree (and Postgraduate, if applicable) certificate(s) and transcript(s);

·       Proof of English Language qualification of IELTS 6.5 overall or equivalent (if applicable);

·       Contact details of two referees, at least one of whom should be a member of academic staff.

Interviews will take place in February 2023.

Informal enquires about the PhD may be directed to [Email Address Removed]


Funding Notes

The successful applicant will receive an annual stipend of £22,278, plus payment of their full-time tuition fees at the University of Oxford for a period of 36 months (3 years). Allowance for travel to the United States will also be provided to conduct experimental work throughout the project, and the student will also receive funding to attend one or more international conferences to present results to the wider community.
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