Research in Health Physics (Radiation Protection)

Dr. Jason T. Harris’ (Health Physics Graduate Program Director), research interests include a number of areas related to environmental and reactor health physics, accelerator applications, radiation detection and measurement, nonproliferation, and nuclear security. Specifically he focuses on: 1) radiological impact to the public and occupational workers from nuclear fuel cycle facilities, 2) development of radiation detectors and sensors for nuclear reactor and accelerator applications, and 3) integration of nuclear safety and security.

Since 2009, Dr. Harris has worked in several endeavors related to nuclear security.  In 2012, he became the Chair of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) International Nuclear Security Education Network (INSEN). He serves as an expert for the U.S. Department of State Partnership for Nuclear Security (PNS), lecturing at a number of professional development workshops throughout the world and also serves on the Advisory Board for the European Masters Program in Nuclear Security, sponsored by the IAEA and European Commission. He has been at the forefront of nuclear security education development, specifically working to better integrate radiation safety with security.  All of these advancements culminated with a recent invitation to speak at the United Nations. Dr. Harris has graduated over 20 MS and PhD students and has served on research committees for nearly 50 MS and PhD students in health physics, nuclear engineering, and physics. Since 2008 he has authored or co-authored over 20 peer-reviewed papers or proceedings and over 60 conference presentation abstracts on a diverse set of topics. He has secured nearly $7M from over 30 competitive external grants and contracts as Principle Investigator or Co-Principle Investigator from the Department of Energy, Department of State, and Nuclear Regulatory Commission.


Dr. Shuang Liu's research interests include receptor-based target radiopharmaceuticals, new bifunctional chelators, development of new techniques for radiolabeling of small biomolecules, formulation development, design/synthesis/evaluation of metal complexes as MRI contrast agents for cardiac perfusion imaging, and coordination chemistry of radiopharmaceuticals. There have been tremendous research efforts from his research group in the development of novel radiotracers for early tumor detection and diagnosis of cardiovascular diseases.  These efforts rely on identification and the use of small biomolecules as “vehicles” to carry a diagnostic radionuclide to the tumor cells. Imaging with radiolabeled small biomolecules allows us to monitor the tumor biological changes at the molecular level.  Over the last 10 years, Dr. Liu has become the leader in radiolabeled cyclic RGD peptides as integrin αvβ3-specific SPECT and PET radiotracers for imaging the integrin expression αvβ3 in rapidly growing and metastatic tumors.  Dr. Liu is the author or co-author over 160 scientific publications, and has been granted 30 US patents and PCT applications.  Dr. Liu’s contributions also have significant impacts on inorganic chemistry, radiochemistry, radiopharmaceutical development, bioconjugates chemistry, molecular imaging, and nuclear medicine.  His research has been supported by grants from the National Institute of Health, Department of Energy, American Heart Association, and industry.

Dr. Linda H. Nie's research focuses on two integrated areas. One is on instrumentation development. In this line of research, her group has developed instruments and technologies for noninvasive, real-time in vivo quantification and distribution of elements in human body and for diagnose and treatment of diseases. Currently her group is working on four projects in this area: 1) development and validation of a transportable neutron activation analysis technology for in vivo quantification of metals in human bone; 2) development and validation of a portable x-ray fluorescence technology for in vivo quantification of metals in human tissues; 3) development and validation of an associated particle neutron imaging technology for medical applications related to elemental distributions and alterations; and 4) development of a DD compact neutron generator based boron neutron capture therapy (BNCT) system.  The second area of Dr. Nie’s research focus is to apply the novel instruments developed in her group to the field of medicine and health sciences. Her group is currently working on three projects in this direction: 1). childhood lead (Pb) poison study on the association between Pb exposure and psychological effects for children, in collaboration with researchers at Xinhua Hospital affiliated to Shanghai Jiaotong University in China, using the bone Pb measurement technologies developed in her group; 2) a collaborative study to investigate association between Mn exposure and neurological outcomes using the new in vivo neutron activation analysis (IVNAA) technology being developed in her group, together with researchers from School of Health Sciences at Purdue University and the researchers at Zunyi Medical University in China; and 3) a collaborative study on a project related to association between lead exposure and neurodegeneration, together with researchers at Harvard School of Public Health and Rush Medical Institute.

Dr. Schweitzer has primary interests in applied health physics topics, emergency response, and training. The Radiological and Environmental Management (REM) group serves as a site for formal undergraduate health physics internships where students receive an overview of the radiation safety program. Graduate students also utilize REM as a practicum site to gain experience in specialized applied health physics areas.

Dr. Aaron Specht's  research focuses on the development, application, and understanding of exposure assessment for elemental and radiation exposures in environmental and occupational health studies. He has developed instrumentation capable of in-field or in-lab measures that utilize a non-destructive, non-invasive, and cost-effective elemental quantification method using x-rya fluorescence. This includes everything from measuring nail, bone, or blood to determine exposure to a human or in animal studies to measuring soil, ash, or air filters to determine ongoing exposures at particular sites. He has many interesting collaborative projects ranging typical studies in hospital settings around the globe to measuring condors on the cliffs of the Grand Canyon. His research interests are (1) Health and medical physics in exposure assessment studies in environmental and occupational health (2) Development of X-ray technologies for elemental quantification of samples such as blood, bone, nail, hair, soil, and others (3) Kinetics of elemental exposures in the body and interplay with the use of biomarkers in epidemiological studies and (4) Exploring novel biomarkers of exposure to elements and radiation for epidemiological studies.

Dr. Keith Stantz's research interests include: (1) developing photoacoustic computed tomographic (PCT) scanner and analytic methods for in vivo quantification of endogenous (hemoglobin) and exogenous (photoacoustic contrast agents) molecules, (2) developing a new PCT-S scanner for dynamic constrast-enhanced techniques (DCE-CT) for in vivo quantification of vascular physiology in mouse models of cancer, (3) discovering patterns of intra-tumor hemodynamics and oxygenation of cancer to different cancer angiogenic phenotypes, and (4) discovery of biological models linking anti-angiogenic therapeutic-driven hypoxia to cancer stem cells and metastasis.

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