Northern Illinois University

Northern Today

Kent Wong
Kent Wong


Student proton-therapy researcher wins
poster award at conference on accelerators

September 15, 2008

by Tom Parisi

Kent Wong, a graduate student in physics, was recognized recently at an international conference for his research on the development of a new device that would use proton beams to generate medical images.

Wong received the Outstanding Poster Award at the International Conference on the Application of Accelerators in Research and Industry for his work on “proton computed tomography.” The conference was held last month in Fort Worth, Texas.

NIU, Loma Linda University Medical Center and the Santa Cruz Institute for Particle Physics are working together to develop proton computed tomography, which would utilize proton beams to produce highly detailed images of structures inside the human body.

NIU also is playing a leading role in development of the $159 million Northern Illinois Proton Treatment and Research Center, under construction in suburban West Chicago. The center will deliver state-of-the-art proton therapy to cancer patients. Proton therapy is an advanced, precise and highly effective form of radiation.

Proton-computed tomography could potentially provide doctors who use proton therapy with more precise information about the size, density and location of a tumor. The technology also could help to better predict the path of a proton beam during treatment.

“We hope to make proton-computed tomography a reality at the Northern Illinois Proton Treatment and Research Center,” said NIU Physics Professor Bela Erdelyi, Wong’s adviser. “Kent is doing some very interesting work and making real contributions to the project.”

Wong’s research, which he will expand upon for his master’s thesis, examines proton beam trajectories through materials that mimic human tissue.

“We’re searching for ways to quantify the effect of bone density, air and water on the path of the protons,” Wong said. “That’s important to know because it affects the spatial resolution when generating a medical image.”

Wong said he hopes to publish his research in a scholarly journal. He ultimately plans to pursue a career in the field of medical physics.