Laurent Kelleter - I am and I will

My name is Laurent and I am currently a researcher at University College London (UCL) working on proton therapy. I am originally from the German-speaking community in eastern Belgium, close to the triple point where Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands join. It was when I was about sixteen years old that I realised that my strengths and also my favourite subjects at school were Maths and Physics. So by the time I turned eighteen I decided to study physics at university in Aachen, Germany. After a few years in I specialised as a particle physicist in order to learn more about the fundamental laws, forces and particles our world is made up of.

The first time I came in touch with cancer research was when I was looking for a topic for my Master’s thesis. I came across this group that was working on radiotherapy, one of the main pillars of cancer therapy. They were aiming to develop a groundbreaking technique for the online beam monitoring in proton therapy, a specialised form of radiotherapy. That sounded very appealing to me since I was trying to move on from fundamental research towards more applied fields. The proton therapy group was essentially doing the same day-to-day work as other particle physicists. However, I appreciated the extra motivation and meaning behind their work because its applications towards saving people’s lives.

I am a researcher and I will make radiotherapy more affordable

Since I enjoyed the academic lifestyle and work environment I decided to apply for a PhD. My Master’s supervisor made me aware of a new European training network that had just launched a few weeks earlier: OMA, Optimisation of Medical Accelerators. The focus of this network is the training of young researchers in proton therapy. I applied (twice) and was lucky enough to be accepted at my current position at UCL.

Our work at UCL focuses on scintillation detectors. Scintillators are materials that emit light when they are crossed by ionising radiation, such as fast protons. Scintillation detectors are very widespread in particle physics because they are cheap and precise. However, they are not commonly used in proton therapy (yet). We are determined to change that and thus make proton therapy better and more affordable.