Thursday, Jan. 3, 2013

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Thursday, Jan. 3


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Linac restarts, beams back up for cancer treatment

Patients can receive high-energy neutron beam therapy for certain types of cancer at Fermilab's Neutron Therapy Facility. The treatment involves positioning the patient in front of the beam port. A beam of neutrons is sent through the opening in the center, targeting the cancerous tissue. Photo: Jessica Orwig

Amid the forest of wires and machines in Fermilab's Linac Gallery is a small, windowless room accessible only through a sliding steel door. With wood-paneled walls and a couple of white, synthetic orchids in full bloom, the room seems like it belongs in a home and not among the complex technology of a national accelerator laboratory.

Yet the room, part of Fermilab's Neutron Therapy Facility, would not exist without the lab's linear accelerator since it is a place where patients with certain types of cancer go for high-energy neutron treatments. Once a patient is inside, the entire room descends four feet, revealing a baseball-sized opening in the wall through which neutrons travel.

When the Cockcroft-Walton generators went offline last year in August, so too did the neutron source for the treatment facility. However, beam was back up using the new RFQ technology in early December and the facility lost no time in resuming treatment. Their first patient began treatment on Dec. 11 and will finish before the end of January, said Thomas Kroc, director of Fermilab's NTF.

"We really appreciate that the linac and source team produced beam on schedule and got us back up and running on time," Kroc said.

Fermilab's NTF is one of two high-energy neutron treatment facilities in the country. Since the facility launched in 1976, it has treated more than 3,000 patients. Dr. Kurubarahalli Saroja, an NTF physician who worked at the facility in the late 1980s and returned in 2005, has treated hundreds of those patients.

"Very few people are doing what we do," Dr. Saroja said. "It feels good to be part of this rare entity."

Neutron treatment works best on tumors that are too large for surgical removal but that have not spread throughout enough of the body to require chemotherapy, Kroc said. The most common type of cancer that NTF treats is salivary gland tumors.

In fact, adorning the wall outside of Kroc's office is a before-and-after photo of a patient who underwent treatment at NTF for a salivary gland tumor. Before treatment, the tumor was the size of a grapefruit, and after treatment it had reduced to the size of a cherry. The facility is currently treating three patients, two of whom have salivary gland tumors.

While the treatment has continued to be successful over the years, Kroc hopes to improve some of the technology for convenience's sake. Right now, the task of manipulating beam size to target different-sized tumors is time-consuming and laborious. However, Kroc is working on a multi-leaf collimator that will allow him to change beam size remotely. He currently has a prototype and hopes to implement this new technology in the near future.

Jessica Orwig


Palomino Gallo first Latin American student to earn two graduate degrees on MINERvA

José Luis Palomino Gallo, from Peru, earned his Ph.D. in physics at Centro Brasileiro de Pesquisas Fisicas last month, soon after presenting his research results at the recent NuInt12 workshop. He is the first student in the MINERvA Latin American collaboration to earn both his master's and doctoral degrees on the MINERvA experiment. Photo: Flavia Schaller

The group of Latin American collaborators on the MINERvA experiment attained a new milestone recently. José Luis Palomino Gallo, from Peru, has become the first student in the collaboration to earn both his master's and, now, his doctorate on the MINERvA experiment.

"The MINERvA experiment at Fermilab has been a unique opportunity for students such as myself to learn and experience all the steps of construction, calibration, data taking and analysis of a high-energy physics experiment," José said.

José's doctoral work helped bring the MINERvA analysis of electromagnetic channels from a blank sheet to its current state of sophistication. The project involved the detection of antineutrino charged-current production of a single π0 final state, one of the more challenging topics for a detector that was just being commissioned when José began the analysis.

José's path to Fermilab began with his undergraduate studies in physics in Lima, Peru, at the Universidad Nacional de Ingeniería, a member institution of MINERvA. After earning his bachelor's, he attended another MINERvA member institution, Centro Brasileiro de Pesquisas Fisicas in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where he qualified for a scholarship.

In the fall of 2007, he moved to Fermilab, staying for eight months to work on MINERvA for his master's project. He then returned to Rio de Janeiro to write his thesis and take doctoral-level courses. He returned to Fermilab and, after another three-plus years, earned his doctoral degree from CBPF. The support of his wife, who has lived with him at Fermilab for the past three-and-a-half years, his advisor Hélio da Motta and his on-site mentor Jorge G. Morfín helped him achieve this milestone in MINERvA history.

"At Fermilab I had the opportunity to meet people from around the world, people with different cultures and different customs," José said. "At the end we are all talking the same language—physics." With supplemental support from the University of Pittsburgh, he finished his Ph.D.

He presented the impressive results of his doctoral project at the recent NuInt12 workshop in Rio de Janeiro.

Though his career at Fermilab is now concluding, his career as a physicist is getting a new beginning: José is on his way to Stony Brook University, having accepted a postdoc position working with Chang Kee Jung.

Jorge Morfín, Fermilab, mentor, and Hélio da Motta, Centro Brasileiro de Pesquisas Fisicas, advisor

Frontier Science Result: DZero

Editor's note: Starting this year, Fermilab Today will bring you more results from research at the Energy, Intensity and Cosmic Frontiers. We will publish these results on Thursdays and Fridays, highlighting the full breadth of Fermilab's experiments.

The bosons and the b's

Measuring how often a W boson and a bottom quark are produced together provides important constraints on models of the strong force.

Studies of the newly observed Higgs-like boson, measurements of the top quark and many searches for exotic physics cannot happen without first understanding the fundamental interactions that introduce certain naturally occurring background processes in the Standard Model: the bosons and the b's. The basic interactions that can create a W boson along with one or more bottom quarks are difficult to model, even though the process occurs with great frequency at hadron colliders. Calculations that involve the strong force are difficult to make in the Standard Model, so models that describe the interactions between quarks and other particles must be constrained by experiment. A recent result from DZero examines this particular production process, providing important input for further model development and a crucial cross-check of existing experimental results.

When a quark is produced after a high-energy collision, strong force interactions quickly turn it into a spray of particles, called a jet. The key to measuring how often W bosons are accompanied by bottom quarks is determining whether a jet is from a bottom quark in the first place. Most quarks turn into a jet immediately after being produced, but a bottom quark tends to form a composite particle that will travel about a millimeter before finally decaying and creating a jet. This small offset between the particles from a bottom-quark jet and the rest of the particles from a collision give analyzers the opportunity to identify bottom quarks. For this particular analysis, the analyzers built a special discriminant to separate events with a W boson and one or more bottom quark jets from those that include jets from lighter quarks.

The DZero analyzers measure a production rate that is consistent with that predicted by a number of existing theoretical models. Moreover, the 12 percent precision of this measurement will help significantly constrain these models, which have uncertainties of about 30 percent on their predictions. Improvements in modeling this process will allow for higher-precision measurements for many processes that include W bosons and bottom quark jets as a background.

Mike Cooke

These physicists made major contributions to this analysis.
The DZero Administrative Support Team plays an invaluable role in the organization and coordination of collaboration meetings, travel and special events.

Stuart Henderson elected vice chair of APS Division of Physics of Beams

Stuart Henderson

Congratulations to Fermilab Associate Laboratory Director for Accelerators Stuart Henderson, who was elected last month to vice chair of the American Physical Society Division of Physics of Beams.

Henderson's four-year term as APS DPB vice chair began on Jan. 1.

In the News

LHC to stir up hot particle soup before 2013 shut down

From New Scientist, Jan. 2, 2013

At the foot of the misty mountains a mighty ring was forged—again! For one month, the Large Hadron Collider will smash two types of particles in a single magnetic ring.

So far, the LHC at CERN, near Geneva, Switzerland, has been colliding beams of identical types of particles, which are spun around the ring by a strong magnetic field. But starting in the third week of January it will smash protons into lead ions, in the hope of learning more about quark-gluon plasma. This is a hot soup of particles thought to make up the early universe.

Read more

Today's New Announcements

Last day to sign up for weight management class

Fermilab Lecture Series - Building Bionics - Jan. 18

Gallery Chamber Series - Metropolis Quartet - Jan. 20

Fermilab Arts Series - Tomas Kubinek - Jan. 26

Employee discounts on AAA membership

Muscle Toning - begins today

Users' Center closed - through Jan. 4

English country dancing - Jan. 6

Martial arts classes - begin Jan. 7

Yoga - begins Jan. 8

Butts & Guts offered Mondays and Wednesdays

Zumba offered Tuesdays and Fridays

January 2013 timecards and float holiday

Timecard instructions for nonexempt employees working on half-holidays

Cafeteria holiday hours

Indoor soccer