Contribution by: Nicholas Sammut
As part of its goal to train and educate a new generation of researchers in Heavy Ion Therapy, HITRIplus provided opportunities for postgraduate university students, postdocs, researchers and oncologists, to spend a few weeks at one of the European heavy ion therapy research infrastructures and hence gain hands-on experience.
These secondments (for employed researchers/practitioners) and internships (for students) provided a first-class unique scientific opportunity to join the day-to-day work of research teams, participate in heavy ion therapy experiments and learn best practices.
In addition, these secondments and internships were intended to enable participants to eventually become facility users by helping them gain first-hand transdisciplinary knowledge on how these facilities can be used for their research.
HITRIplus offered three internships and five secondment opportunities in the fields of microdosimetry, programming of control systems, accelerator physics, radiation oncology (2 opportunities), medical physics, bioengineering and radiotherapy. Out of the 56 received applications, 2 interns and 3 secondment candidates were selected through a merit-based equal opportunity selection system to cover a grand total of almost 60 weeks (i.e. almost 12 weeks each).
The first internship, hosted at MedAustron, was within the microdosimetric group which is investigating the radiation quality of the clinical ion beams using the most advanced prototypes of microdosimeters. The group is working with solid-state microdosimeters (based on diamond and silicon diodes) and gas microdosimeters (based on tissue-equivalent proportional counters). The project’s main supervisor was Giulio Magrin and the intern was Yasmin Hamad from Italy/Palestine.
The second internship was hosted by CNAO within the research and development department. The project consisted of the development of a custom syntax, automation software and LabVIEW interface to control a 5-axis sampling positioning system. The project’s main supervisor was Marco Pullia and the intern was Muhammed Tevfik Kaplanoglu from Turkey.
The third opportunity was a secondment hosted by the medical physics team at CNAO in treatment planning and beam dosimetry and quality assurance daily activities. Python scripting and Matlab were used to implement the automation procedures within the Raystation treatment planning system (TPS) and clinical workflow. Mario Ciocca and Silvia Molinelli supervised the project. The secondment candidate was Livia Chilug from Romania.
The fourth opportunity was a secondment in Radiotherapy hosted by the clinical department of CNAO and involved assisting the patient from the CT simulation until the end of the treatment and included participation in the study of technological developments related to the functionality of equipment in the therapeutic path of treatment with hadron therapy. Ester Orlandi was the supervisor and the candidate was Cirja Onisim from Romania.
The fifth opportunity was a secondment in Radiation Oncology hosted by the clinical department of CNAO. The candidate had the chance to acquire skills in all aspects of workflow of the proton and ion treatment: In addition, the candidate was involved in the participation of tumor boards and multidisciplinary discussions. Ester Orlandi was the supervisor and the candidate was Fatjona Kraja from Albania.
The calls for the internships and secondments were posted in Q3 of 2021 and the last secondment opportunity was finalised successfully in Q2 2023.