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Advanced Computer Simulation and Visualization Tools for Enhanced Understanding of Core Medical Physics Concepts

S Naqvi

S Naqvi1*, (1) , Saint Agnes Cancer Institute, Department of Radiation Oncology, Baltimore, MD 21229


MO-E-18C-4 Monday 1:45PM - 3:45PM Room: 18C

Most medical physics programs emphasize proficiency in routine clinical calculations and QA. The formulaic aspect of these calculations and prescriptive nature of measurement protocols obviate the need to frequently apply basic physical principles, which, therefore, gradually decay away from memory. E.g. few students appreciate the role of electron transport in photon dose, making it difficult to understand key concepts such as dose buildup, electronic disequilibrium effects and Bragg-Gray theory. These conceptual deficiencies manifest when the physicist encounters a new system, requiring knowledge beyond routine activities.

Two interactive computer simulation tools are developed to facilitate deeper learning of physical principles. One is a Monte Carlo code written with a strong educational aspect. The code can "label" regions and interactions to highlight specific aspects of the physics, e.g., certain regions can be designated as "starters" or "crossers," and any interaction type can be turned on and off. Full 3D tracks with specific portions highlighted further enhance the visualization of radiation transport problems. The second code calculates and displays trajectories of a collection electrons under arbitrary space/time dependent Lorentz force using relativistic kinematics.

Using the Monte Carlo code, the student can interactively study photon and electron transport through visualization of dose components, particle tracks, and interaction types. The code can, for instance, be used to study kerma-dose relationship, explore electronic disequilibrium near interfaces, or visualize kernels by using interaction forcing. The electromagnetic simulator enables the student to explore accelerating mechanisms and particle optics in devices such as cyclotrons and linacs.

The proposed tools are designed to enhance understanding of abstract concepts by highlighting various aspects of the physics. The simulations serve as virtual experiments that give deeper and long lasting understanding of core principles. The student can then make sound judgements in novel situations encountered beyond routine clinical activities.

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