Over the past few months we have been lucky enough to use a MX-10 detector (a device which can detect radiation particles) from CERN, in collaboration with IRIS and Abingdon Science Partnership.
We chose to investigate how the number of particles and energy deposited varied with depth of water, using a source of gamma and beta radiation. Water resembles human body tissue, so this experiment was effectively simulating gamma radiation as a treatment for cancer. This ties in with an EPQ that Becky (U6D) is currently working on about proton therapy, as this experiment can provide evidence for how traditional radiation treatment can damage healthy cells on entry and exit of the body (and therefore why proton therapy may be a better option for treating tumours within the body).
We concluded from our data that the energy deposited and particles absorbed were at its maximum in the first few cm of water, which suggests that a lot of the radiation is absorbed in the healthy surface tissue (potentially killing or harming cells). This leaves less energy for the cancerous tissue, suggesting that gamma radiation is a less effective form of cancer treatment than proton therapy (which deposits its maximum dose at a depth within tissue dependent on its energy).
To present our research we made a (very large!) poster, which was displayed at the IRIS student conference, where we had the opportunity to talk about our research to professors and researchers from CERN.
This project helped us to develop our practical and teamwork skills hugely, and we also obtained a great insight into what being a research scientist would be like. It was really exciting to take part in ‘real’ research, and we all thoroughly enjoyed the experience!