Student Profile in Heavy Ion Radiotherapy

Elizabeth Polsdofer

Biomedical Engineering Graduate Program

Mentor: Michael Story, Ph.D.
Undergraduate Degree: Physics
Undergraduate Institution: Iowa State University
Hometown: Mason City, Iowa

Awards/Fellowships: Undergraduate – 2012: Bernice Black Durand Undergraduate Research Scholarship Undergraduate; 2013 – Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA) IINSPIRE Program

Elizabeth Polsdofer

How did you become interested in science and/or research?

As an undergraduate, I was torn on what to study because I had so many interests. I eventually decided on majoring in physics because I enjoyed calculus in high school and wanted to challenge myself. I’ve always had an interest in medicine and wanted to see how I could apply my training in physics to problems related to cancer. While taking coursework for my masters in medical physics, I discovered the field of radiobiology.

Please describe your research.

For my doctoral thesis I am using in silico modeling and machine learning to predict how tumors will respond to different radiation modalities. Our lab is interested in the use of ions heavier than protons, such as carbon, for the therapeutic treatment of pancreatic and head and neck cancers. However, there are limited clinical data available as there are no clinical heavy ion treatment centers in the United States. My research will attempt to predict how a patient undergoing heavy ion radiotherapy might respond to radiotherapy to better aid clinicians when this technology comes to the United States.

Why did you choose UT Southwestern?

I chose UT Southwestern because it is one of the few universities in the world that has an active and vibrant radiobiology research program attached to its Radiation Oncology department.

What do you love about the Biomedical Engineering Program?

In addition to pursuing radiation biology research, I am able to also continue to grow as a medical physicist and stay connected to the clinic. It is incredible to see how our research in the laboratory is able to translate to patients undergoing therapy, as well as being able to use clinical data to better understand the mechanisms driving biological responses to radiation.

– Elizabeth PolsdoferBiomedical Engineering Graduate Program

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