From Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center to SpaceX

SpaceX was the first private company to send astronauts into orbit last year. Studying the impact of radiation on these space travelers and their equipment, several students enrolled in the LSU-Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center Dr. Charles M. Smith Medical and Health Physics Program saw a connection between radiation exposure in astronauts traveling beyond the Earth’s protective magnetic field and cancer patients.

One of the graduate students in the SparTAN Physics Lab investigating this connection is Nousha Afshari

“I was constantly seeing nearly identical patients who had the same background, lifestyle, cancer in the same location and the same type of radiation treatment,” Afshari said. “But one would have serious, chronic side effects while the other would be fine. That bothered me. Let’s give patients better statistics on how radiation is going to affect them. This kind of data isn’t available yet. That’s the driving force behind the research I want to do. I came into this program with the goal of helping as many people as possible.”

Afshari’s Ph.D. work will build upon some of the findings and outcomes of fellow students’ projects to produce new ways to predict and understand radiation exposure. This will have implication for both clinical radiotherapy and space exploration.

Read more about the radiation research being done at SpaceX

A Legacy of Innovation

The Mary Bird Perkins – Louisiana State University Department of Physics and Astronomy Medical Physics partnership continues to provide pro a multi-layered joint academic and research program between the two organizations.

Created in 2004, the partnership leverages the educational and research resources of Mary Bird Perkins and LSU to benefit patients receiving cancer care around the world. The joint program has recently received a $7.8 million gift from the late Charles M. Smith, M.D. that will enhance this renowned partnership and impact the medical physics program for years to come.

Learn more about the Cancer Center's top-ranked medical physics program