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MPBE Student Voice



MPBE Summer Studentship: Building a head and neck atlas for cancer patients treated with radiotherapy using open source data

By Medical Physics and Biomedical Engineering, on 13 October 2023

Name: Rozenn Raffaut
Degree: Medical Physics
Project Title: Building a head and neck atlas for cancer patients treated with radiotherapy using open source data
Supervisors: Dr Jamie McClelland and Poppy Nikou

How did you find out about the studentship? Why did it appeal to you?

I was introduced to the MPBE summer studentship programme while I was completing a placement with the Radiotherapy Image Computing Group (RTIC) last year (2022/23) as part of the Year 2 Medical Physics Research Experience scheme. I was excited to do a summer project with the group, as I had previously learnt about RTIC’s work on radiotherapy, and this was an opportunity to actually contribute to the fascinating research within the Medical Physics department. In addition, I could now apply the Python programming skills that I had learnt during my previous computing modules to a real-life medical physics application.

Can you tell us a bit about the project you are working on?

One of the ways cancer patients can be treated is radiotherapy – in which a dose of radiation is delivered to a tumour in ‘fractions’ over the course of several weeks. Head and neck cancer patients experience anatomical changes over these weeks, such as weight loss or tumour shrinkage, but in order to analyse and compare these changes between patients, they all need to be in the same frame of reference. To prevent bias, this frame is an “average patient” – an atlas. My project consists of creating an atlas from open-source head and neck CT data using groupwise image registration (aligning many images to each other) for future use in radiotherapy research.

How are you finding the experience? How do you think it is benefiting you?

So far, it has been a very fulfilling and rewarding experience: I particularly enjoy getting to know the different tools that are used in research, such as the NiftiReg image registration software and the diverse uses of Python modules in image processing. My project supervisor, Poppy Nikou, as well as RTIC’s PI, Dr Jamie McClelland, are always open to questions and willing to explain how things work. I believe that this project has helped me further develop my Python programming skills and has offered me more insight into the medical physics research environment at UCL.

What does this experience mean for your future career?

The work with RTIC has led me to consider medical physics research as a career path after I will complete my MSci Medical Physics course in two years’ time, as well as providing invaluable experience within a research environment. Furthermore, it has increased my interest for the image processing and analysis aspect of medical physics, which I hope to explore further during my future studies, and potentially as part of my master’s year project.

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