Photo of the Rideau Canal couresty of Victor Malkov
2nd year PhD student in Medical Physics
Tell us about yourself
As many Canadians, I have a fairly multicultural background. I was born in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, and moved, at the age of 3, to Israel where I lived for six years. Since then I have lived in Canada., currently in Ottawa while I work on my PhD. During the time that I manage to rip myself away from research, I enjoy running, cooking, playing board games with friends and family, and playing with my amazing goldendoodle!
What is your research about?
Imagine you are playing darts. Someone lets you take a peek at your target and then blindfolds and spins you around. You need to try to hit the target spot on or else you lose the 20 bucks you have on the table. In radiation therapy, where the stakes are much higher, we have a similar situation. We try to hit a tumour in an ever changing and moving patient. My work deals with running simulations for synergetic magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and radiation treatment machines. These instruments will allow us to peer into the human body while providing treatment.
What have you enjoyed the most about your research?
My favourite part about working in Medical Physics is the diversity of experience in the field. We have radiation therapy experts, imaging professionals, genetic and molecular researchers, biologists, chemists, doctors, and many others involved in exploring this complex subject. We can bounce ideas off each other and come up with incredible solutions that a single person might overlook.
What have you found most challenging about your research?
There are times when I want to turn to someone and ask for help solving a problem, and often I get very productive input from my friends and colleagues. However, there are certain problems that are so specific to my research, that I am the only one who can tackle them. This is definitely a frustrating and somewhat isolating part of research, but also makes it incredibly fun once you actually figure out the solution!
How has your research experience influenced your career path?
I did my undergraduate degree in Mathematical Physics, and I had aspirations to head into the grand world of theoretical subatomic research. However, in looking for graduate school I found that Medical Physics tugged at my interests more than any other subject matter, and choosing it was one of the best decision that I have made. My research has inspired me to look into working in a medical clinic and eventually becoming a radiation oncologist.
“We can bounce ideas off each other and come up with incredible solutions that a single person might overlook.”
How has your research impacted the world?
Magnetic Resonance Imaging machines coupled to radiation therapy technology is a developing technology. My research is helping to understand how radiation travels in machines such as these, and helps to develop better treatment plans to attack cancers. The codes that we are developing in the lab will be used to ensure safe and effective treatments, and will potentially lead to the emergence of new technologies that use radiation therapy coupled to magnetic fields.
What do you predict will be the next big breakthrough in your field of research?
Medical physics is ever evolving. One of the biggest breakthroughs that is going to be showing up in the near future is the introduction of radiation therapy machines with high-end imaging modalities such as the MRI-radiation therapy system. A further improvement that is becoming readily available is proton therapy that can enhance current treatment. There are numerous other exciting developments coming!
What motivates you to do research?
Throughout my studies, I spent a good deal of time learning from books, professors, and teachers. This was information that was gathered over the course of centuries. Ideas that were developed and refined by innovative people who were curious enough to go that one extra step to push our boundary of knowledge. When I am working on my research I am doing it because I am inspired by my predecessors and hopeful for the students of the future. Science is one of our greatest monuments, and it is up to us to contribute to its continued construction.
Tell us about your 'Eureka' moment
My Eureka! moment is more of a collection of one of my favourite things in being a graduate student. As you work on your research, certain ideas sprout into your mind and begin to grow. Often you are not aware of the development until it comes to the surface and you strike on a new idea. This was the case when I thought of a new coupling between my research and brachytherapy treatment. The approach I propose could significantly improve brachytherapy treatment and help reduce radiation to healthy tissues. These ideas are another superb part of grad research.