Graduate Research Assistant

Date posted: 
Probable number of appointments available: 
Percentage of appointment: 
Length of appointment: 
Academic year
Deadline for application: 
March 31, 2020
Dr. Joel St-Aubin, Ph.D.
Radiation Oncology
Anticipated duties: 

Appointment of one (1) candidate with interest in becoming a board-certified medical physicist to conduct a Ph.D. level research project in the Department of Radiation Oncology at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. The successful candidate will be expected to complete his or her Ph.D. requirements on an exciting MRI-guided radiotherapy dose calculation and treatment planning development project. The overall goal of this research project is to apply a novel deterministic grid-based Boltzmann solver (GBBS) dose calculation in magnetic fields to clinical MRI-guided radiotherapy (MRIgRT). A deterministic solution to MRIgRT doses has proven to be highly accurate without any statistical uncertainty that is common with Monte Carlo techniques [1-4]. This project will develop radiation source models of commercial MRI-linac systems (e.g. Elekta Unity, ViewRay MRIdian), and novel numerical techniques for the rapid calculation of MRIgRT doses including artificial intelligence based dose predictions and accelerations. Deterministic grid-based Boltzmann solvers have the advantage of minimal calculation penalty for volumetric modulated arc therapy (VMAT) treatments or treatments with a large number of radiation beams. Highly accurate, rapid dose calculations without statistical uncertainty are important in MRIgRT as either a primary dose calculation engine, and/or as an independent second check method.
Using a research grid-based Boltzmann solver that includes the effects of magnetic fields, the student will focus on the development of radiation source models to match the outputs of commercial MRI-linac systems (e.g. Elekta Unity and ViewRay MRIdian) and will validate the source models against measured data. Using these validated source models, accelerated treatment plan generation and dose calculation will be investigated using artificial intelligence architectures such as convolutional neural networks (CNNs).
The student will be admitted through the Biomedical Engineering Graduate Program at the University of Iowa, and will be supervised and funded within the Department of Radiation Oncology. Start date is flexible and can be as early as July 1, 2020 (summer semester). Anticipated length of appointment is 4-5 years.

The successful candidate will be accepted into the Medical Physics Graduate Track program at the University of Iowa Department of Radiation Oncology. In addition to high quality training received through the courses provided through Biomedical Engineering, the Medical Physics Graduate Track program provides clinical hands-on experience with medical linear accelerator and patient specific QA through a clerkship program. Thus, through the medical physics graduate track program, the successful candidate will receive the training and experience (research and clinical) in preparation for a CAMPEP accredited medical physics residency program.

Qualifications required: 

1. Candidate is required to have received a Master Degree in Medical Physics or equivalent field from a CAMPEP-accredited Medical Physics Graduate Program prior to the start date. Please clearly indicate this in your application.
2. The selected candidate is required to additionally apply to and be accepted in the Biomedical Engineering (BME) graduate program at the University of Iowa as a Ph.D. student to be appointed in the position. This BME application can be submitted outside of standard BME graduate program application deadlines but only after selection for the position. Candidate will be subject to all requirements of the BME graduate program. See for details on qualifications and how to apply.
3. It is highly desirable for the candidate to have strong interpersonal and communication skills and it is also desirable that they have completed at least two (2) computer science and/or computer engineering courses. Other courses relevant to the research topics outlined herein may be considered at the time of application.
4. It is highly desirable that the candidate have interest and some experience in computer programming, numerical algorithm development, and the integration of artificial intelligence/machine learning in dose calculations and treatment planning.

Desired skills: Computer programming proficiency in C languages, Python, and/or MATLAB, exposure to neural networks, and computational optimization.

Other information: 

The Physics Division of the Department of Radiation Oncology at the University of Iowa has fourteen faculty medical physicists, 2 medical physics residents, 6 dosimetrists, and 2 IT specialists. Our main facility houses 4 external beam treatment units: 2 Elekta Versa HD systems, a Gamma Knife Icon stereotactic radiosurgery system, and an Elekta Unity MRI-linac. Additional technologies include a 3 Tesla MRI scanner, 4-D PET/CT scanner, mobile C-arm for fluoroscopy and kV cone beam CT, 6-degree-of-freedom robotic patient positioners, and multiple optical image guidance systems. Special procedures include 4D imaging/treatment planning/delivery, frame-based and frameless stereotactic radiosurgery, stereotactic body radiation therapy, total body and total skin irradiation, intraoperative radiation therapy, and an active and diverse brachytherapy program (HDR, prostate seed implants, eye plaque implants, etc). Additional technologies are available for support in our 4 partner sites, including Varian and Elekta linear accelerators. The Medical Physics Division is actively involved in translational and collaborative research.
The University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics is a tertiary care, teaching, and research center located in Iowa City, Iowa. We are consistently named to U.S. News & World Report as one of “America’s Best Hospitals”. Iowa City, a Big Ten University town, offers a lively community with robust cultural, entertainment, and recreational activities, and ranked as number 4 on Livability’s Best Places to Live (2019).

Process by which student may apply: 

Direct inquiries and application materials via email to:
Dr. Joel St-Aubin, PhD, MCCPM
Clinical Associate Professor
Department of Radiation Oncology
University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics
200 Hawkins Drive, Iowa City, IA 52242
Office Phone: 319-467-7413

Application materials required: 
Provide detailed resume and cover letter referencing skills and experience directly related to the specified qualifications. References: 1. St-Aubin J, Keyvanloo A, Vassiliev O, Fallone BG. A deterministic solution of the first order linear Boltzmann transport equation in the presence of external magnetic fields. Med Phys. 2015;42(2):780-93. 2. St-Aubin J, Keyvanloo A, Fallone BG. Discontinuous finite element space-angle treatment of the first order linear Boltzmann transport equation with magnetic fields: Application to MRI-guided radiotherapy. Med Phys. 2016;43(1):195-204. 3. Yang R, Zelyak O, Fallone BG, St-Aubin J. A novel upwind stabilized discontinuous finite element angular framework for deterministic dose calculations in magnetic fields. Phys Med Biol. 2018;63(3):035018. 4. Yang R, Santos DM, Fallone BG, St-Aubin J. A novel transport sweep architecture for efficient deterministic patient dose calculations in MRI-guided radiotherapy. Phys Med Biol. 2019.