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SIMAC: A Simulation Tool for Teaching Linear Accelerator Physics

M Carlone

M Carlone1,2*, N Harnett1,2 , W Harris 8 B Norrlinger1 , M MacPherson3 , M Lamey4 , R Anderson5 M Oldham 7,8 (1) Princess Margaret Hospital, Toronto, ON, (2) Department of Radiation Oncology, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, (3) The Ottawa Hospital, Ottawa, Ontario, (4) Trillium Health Partners, Mississauga, Ontario, (6) Department of Physics, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario (7) Duke University Medical Medical Center, Durham NC (7) Duke University Medical Physics Graduate Program, Durham NC


MO-DE-BRA-2 (Monday, August 1, 2016) 1:45 PM - 3:45 PM Room: Ballroom A

Purpose: The first goal of this work is to develop software that can simulate the physics of linear accelerators (linac). The second goal is to show that this simulation tool is effective in teaching linac physics to medical physicists and linac service engineers.

Methods: Linacs were modeled using analytical expressions that can correctly describe the physical response of a linac to parameter changes in real time. These expressions were programmed with a graphical user interface in order to produce an environment similar to that of linac service mode. The software, “SIMAC”, has been used as a learning aid in a professional development course 3 times (2014 – 2016) as well as in a physics graduate program. Exercises were developed to supplement the didactic components of the courses consisting of activites designed to reinforce the concepts of beam loading; the effect of steering coil currents on beam symmetry; and the relationship between beam energy and flatness.

Results: SIMAC was used to teach 35 professionals (medical physicists; regulators; service engineers; 1 week course) as well as 20 graduate students (1 month project). In the student evaluations, 85% of the students rated the effectiveness of SIMAC as very good or outstanding, and 70% rated the software as the most effective part of the courses. Exercise results were collected showing that 100% of the students were able to use the software correctly. In exercises involving gross changes to linac operating points (i.e. energy changes) the majority of students were able to correctly perform these beam adjustments.

Conclusion: Software simulation(SIMAC), can be used to effectively teach linac physics. In short courses, students were able to correctly make gross parameter adjustments that typically require much longer training times using conventional training methods.

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