‘The Mathematics is very applicable to real-life scenarios’
Job Titles: KY – Medical Physicist, CM – Year 12 student
Organisation: NHS Arden Cancer Centre
Kevin Young works at the Arden Cancer Centre in Coventry where he is a Medical Physicist. During July and August 2008, the centre welcomed Chandni Mistry, a Year 12 student from President Kennedy School & Community College in Coventry. Chandni completed a 5 week placement under the Nuffield Bursary Scheme. In this time she worked on an original and exciting mathematics project at the centre.
Can you tell us a little about the Arden Cancer Centre?
Kevin : The centre is primarily concerned with the treatment of cancer. I work in the Medical Physics division where we look after all the equipment which makes use of radiation. It is our job to ensure that patients are treated correctly with this radiation. My speciality is intensity modulated radiotherapy which is the use of high intensity radiation beams to treat tumours accurately. I think that one of the attractions of my area is that the Maths is very applicable to real-life scenarios such as patient care.
How did you become involved in the Nuffield Bursary Scheme?
K : As a department we are always keen to attract students so that we can ensure that future generations will continue carrying out the essential work in radiotherapy.
Can you describe the project which was completed in the 5 week placement?
Chandni : I had to model the flight path of a linear accelerator. In order to do this I had to revise a lot of my school Maths on vectors. I also had to do a lot of background research on linear accelerators and the vector cross product. Forces of momentum and Newton’s Laws from Mechanics were also essential for this project.
K : Calculating the flight path of the electrons in variable magnetic fields requires a lot of mathematical concepts and some electrodynamics was also new material which Chandni had to become familiar with.
How did you find working at the centre compared to school?
C : Well I definitely didn’t feel as spoon-fed as it can sometimes feel at school. This was very much a research project where neither of us knew what was coming.
K : We didn’t know if it would work to be quite honest because it was something which was quite novel. We had to check that the equations which we derived made physical sense. It was a great feeling when our results did work and I think we could look to publish some of these results in an academic journal perhaps.
What have you learned in the project?
C : It has made me see how Maths can be applied in the real world. A lot of people question why they have to learn Maths and think they are never going to use it again. Here I have seen how Maths can be applied to very important and everyday situations.
To find out more about the Nuffield Foundation and Nuffield Science Bursaries visit the website www.nuffieldfoundation.org.