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Innovative research into cancer treatment wins top prize for Dundee student


A student from St John’s High School, Dundee, scooped one of the top prizes at the prestigious national BA CREST Science Fair in London. The fair, held at the Royal Society on 28 February, showcases science and technology projects from students aged 11-18 across the UK.

Gurjit Singh Sidhu was awarded the International Science and Engineering Fair Prize 2005 for his project testing equipment to measure the dose of radiation that cancer cells received during radiotherapy. He has won the chance to attend the International Science and Engineering Fair to be held in Phoenix, Arizona in May 2005.

Gurjit did his project at Ninewells Hospital during his summer break. He approached the hospital himself after having done work experience there the previous year. “When patients undergo radiotherapy, there is currently no way of verifying the dose that they receive other than relying on the x-ray machine,” explained Gurjit. “By placing diodes at the surface of the skin above the tumour, it’s possible to calculate the dose that the cancer cells receive.”

Diodes are not currently in use in hospitals, and for the NHS to take on new technology it must be rigorously tested. It was this testing that Gurjit was involved in. “Diodes were first used about fifteen years ago, but were scrapped because they were of such poor quality,” said Gurjit. “As diodes have improved, the team at Ninewells were keen to look into using this method again.”

Inviting Gurjit to test the diodes as a research project, the Head of the Radiotherapy Dept at Ninewells, John Parry, told him that he would be the first person in Ninewells to be doing this research since those first abortive attempts fifteen years ago. “The results look very promising,” Gurjit said. “I was told that the project was actually MSc level and Ninewells would set MSc students the task of following up on these trials.”

Gurjit is currently studying for his Advanced Higher examinations and will go on to study Mechanical Engineering next year at the University of Strathclyde, where he has an unconditional offer.

At the fair, budding scientists presented their projects to a panel of judges including scientists, educators and science journalists.

“We hear much about the declining numbers of students opting for science at A-level and university, but very little about the achievements of young people,” says Professor Winston, President of the BA (British Association for the Advancement of Science), which co-ordinates the fair. “Every year at the science fair we see many outstanding and innovative projects and we want to celebrate this work. By recognising the creativity and innovation behind these projects, we can encourage young people to pursue a career in science.”

The BA would like to thank AstraZeneca, the Research Councils and QinetiQ for their sponsorship of the event and the Royal Society for its support.

Craig Brierley | alfa
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