Precision Imaging Beacon
Daniel Cocking is a Medical Physics PhD student working in the Precision Imaging Beacon. His project is focused on deuterium metabolic imaging at ultra-high field.
How would you explain your research?
Deuterium metabolic imaging (DMI) is a new non-invasive method for three-dimensional mapping of metabolic activity in human subjects. It involves using spectroscopic 2H magnetic resonance imaging to map the distribution of the 2H-bearing metabolites that are generated following the infusion or injection of deuterium-labelled compounds (e.g. labelled glucose or heavy water). DMI potentially provides an alternative to FDG-PET for cancer detection through the identification of areas of elevated glucose metabolism, with the benefit of not requiring the use of radioactive tracers while providing information about metabolism that goes beyond just glucose uptake. Recent work at 4T has demonstrated that DMI following oral intake of 2H-labeled glucose reveals pronounced metabolic differences between normal brain and tumour tissue in patients with high-grade brain tumours. The main aim of the research is to implement DMI on the Nottingham 7T scanner for application to brain cancer and to develop approaches that best exploit the increased intrinsic signal to noise ratio available at the higher field.
Why Nottingham and why the Precision Imaging Beacon?
Nottingham has a rich and vibrant history in medical physics.Sir Peter Mansfield’s work on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and his Nobel prize in 2003 illustrate the UoN pionneering role in MRI research. The close connection to the Queen’s medical centre (QMC), the Precision Imaging Beacon, and the Sir Peter Mansfield Imaging Centre (SPMIC) allows research to be implemented into practice much faster to impact people's lives. Finally, after living in Nottingham for four years during my undergraduate degree, I could easily see myself staying for another 3 years, as Nottingham is such a vibrant area.
What inspired you to pursue this area?
From sixth form I knew that no matter what field or career I ended up pursuing, I wanted to make a difference by helping people. And since most of my skillset lies in maths/physics it made perfect sense to combine the two, which is why I did my undergraduate degree in ‘physics with medical physics’. Ever since then, I have seen how research has evolved into practice and how it has contributed to improving and saving so many lives. This is why I fell in love with the field.
Improved diagnostic testing paves the way to faster diagnosis and increased accuracy to inform treatment planning and the saving of lives.
How will your research affect the average person?
Cancer affects 1 in 2 people during their lifetime; therefore, diagnostic tests are at the forefront of being able to overcome this disease. Improving diagnostic testing paves the way to faster diagnosis and increased accuracy to inform treatment planning and the saving of lives. As cancer does not discriminate, every research contribution adds to benefits to patients and society.
What’s been the greatest moment of your career so far?
I can’t decide between two, the first being the moment I got my PhD offering, it had been a dream of mine for so long, and the second, when during my 4th year project, I attended the 61st Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Conference (ENC). Being there gave me a chance to show myself as a respected scientist, and to stand on my own two feet. I also learnt so much about the scientific industry and not just the research side of it.
How will being based at UoN and joining Precision Imaging help you achieve your goals?
My main goal is that my research will contribute positively to someone else’s life. This PhD will give me the skillset, knowledge, and supervision to be able to produce papers and research findings for this to be possible. Also, the Uon and the Precision Imaging Beacon provide an environment that encourage me to have new ideas for advancing my research.
What aspects of your research and role are you looking forward to?
I am looking forward to be a main author in published research and get into a position to influence other researchers. My research project covers new ground for Precison Imaging Beacon and the UoN and so, there will be lots of learning along the way, including new coding languages and managing my own MRI scanning projects. It will be amazing to be a main player in bringing this new research field to a fully recognised research capability at the UoN, contributing to medical sciences and saving people’s lives.