Prestigious research opportunity for Physics student could help improve medical devices for better patient care
Physics Student Investigates Major Tool in Diagnostic Research During Internship with Cornell Bright Beams
Isabelle LaBelle ‘23 was given the opportunity this summer to research alongside research scientist Matt Andorf at Cornell University’s CLASSE REU program (Cornell Laboratory for Accelerator- based Sciences and Education). This prestigious program selects only 14 students from across the country to participate.
LaBelle, a physics major with a double minor in mathematics and chemistry, is also a peer tutor at Utica, and serves as vice president of the Utica University Honors Association.
With regard to her research over the summer LaBelle explains, “I worked at the Center of Bright Beams at Cornell University with one of their particle guns. Particle accelerator guns are utilized to accelerate charged particles, forming them into a beam. The particle beam hits a target, allowing information about the particles to be collected.”
LaBelle’s research will help aid in the improvement of medical devices used in various facilities to ensure patients get the best care possible, as well as enhance medical research.
“My research is looking at the location of the photocathode and seeing how far off center it should be placed in order to reduce the rate at which the photocathode degrades,” she explains.
The photocathode is a piece of metal that is placed in a vacuum chamber inside the gun. The vacuum prevents other particles from interfering with the production of an electron beam. When light is shone on the metal, electrons are emitted and travel through the gun as an electron beam.
“Particle accelerators are utilized in many different industries, such as medicine, science, research, industrial processing and more. In medicine, particle accelerators are used for medical diagnosis and treatment,” LaBelle said.
A majority of her research focused on understanding reduction in ion back bombardment as a function of photocathode placement within the particle accelerators. This occurs when there is residual gas in the gun that becomes positively charged by the electron beam. These positively-charged particles travel backward through the gun and damage the photocathode. LaBelle focused on reconfiguring the photocathodes in different positions in an attempt to increase their longevity.
Isabelle is currently looking into grad school, with hopes of conducting research in a national laboratory or perhaps teaching.
- written by Tanner Deveans ’24 and Victoria DeLuca ’24, PR Interns
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