Doctorate in Applied and Engineering Physics  

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Thesis Proposal for the

Doctorate Program in Applied and Engineering Physics (DAEPHYS)

Starting in the Academic Year 2016/2017

Proposal 029

Title:Development of strategies for increasing sensitivity and image contrast in EasyPET system based on intelligent detector pre-imaging scan
Objectives (recommended length: 2000-3000 char):
Preclinical PET systems are used for small animal imaging and are important to study human diseases and validate new drugs and therapeutics in animal models, as well as to develop new PET radiopharmaceuticals for diagnosis. Despite the high sensitivity and diagnostic power of PET imaging, particularly for oncologic and neurologic diseases, there are two strong limiting factors to the adoption and use of preclinical PET technology: excessive complexity and cost.

EasyPET is a new concept for PET imaging, based on the intelligent rotation of detector pairs, which can reduce the number of detector cells to the minimum and produce a high resolution PET image (patent pending by the University of Aveiro, PCT/IB2016/051487). The simplicity of the system's innovative architecture allows a significant reduction of complexity and cost of preclinical PET scanners. In addition, the intrinsic characteristics of easyPET's image acquisition method allow eliminating or reducing the parallax error present in conventional preclinical PET systems, therefore producing an image with high spatial resolution uniform in all the field-of-view. The main limitation of the EasyPET concept has to do with its relatively lower sensitivity when compared with full-ring systems, a natural consequence of the lower number of detectors.

The main objective of this project is to develop strategies for reducing this limitation and optimizing the sensitivity and image contrast of EasyPET, thus allowing the production of a PET image within a shorter acquisition time or using a lower radiation dose. These strategies will be based on an intelligent pre-imaging scan of the field-of-view, in order to obtain previous information on the activity or morphology of the object/subject to image and automatically optimize the imaging scan in terms of geometrical acceptance, predefining the detector position, scanning angles and acquisition time at each position of the two axes of rotation which are the basis of the EasyPET’s innovative image acquisition method.
Framework (recommended length: 500-2000 char):
EasyPET is a patented technology that is being developed at UA in the Radiation Detection and Medical Imaging (DRIM) group from I3N Aveiro. This lab is fully equipped with all the modern needed equipment for the execution of the working plan. Resources for the needed consumables, electrical and mechanic workshop, radiation sources, etc, are supported by the funding project ”PET com sistema inovador de leitura dupla para correção de DOI”, ref. POCI-01-0145-FEDER-016855 and PTDC/BBB-IMG/4909/2014, that is starting in June 2016 for a period of 3 years. A first system was already developed for didactic purposes and licensed to a multinational company, CAEN S.p.A., expert and leader in the market of nuclear electronics and instrumentation. This system will be available in the market during this year. The DRIM group is strongly committed to the development of preclinical and training PET systems based on EasyPET technologies. Joining this effort, the RI-TE company intends to market training and preclinical PET scanners based on the EasyPET technology. This company has already raised some funds and applied for further financial support trough COMPETE 2020.
In conclusion, all the needed resources for a successful PhD work within this project proposal are assured, accompanied by a well-defined product oriented goal.
Tasks (recommended length: 1000-3000 char):
The information of the object/subject to image will be obtained by means of a pre-imaging scan, firstly using only information from the EasyPET gamma scintillation detectors and posteriorly using additional technologies, optical and X-ray, which will provide morphological information on the spatial distribution of the object within the imaging field-of-view (FOV). The main tasks of the project will thus be performed as follows:

1 – As a first approach, a fast acquisition scan of the whole field-of-view of EasyPET system will be done in order to identify the volume of interest of the emitted activity. This information will already allow optimizing the geometry of the imaging scan but this approach will be limited, since some regions of small activity may not be detected in this fast scan and can be wrongly excluded.

2 – The second approach will be to perform an optical scan during the fast acquisition, using a camera or optical sensors (infra-red and/or visible, e.g. a CCD) to scan the FOV and define the physical volume distribution of the sample/animal. The IR filtering may be useful in case of small animal imaging, to eliminate animal fur.

3 – The third approach will be based on an X-ray scan, using a small linear/rectangular X-ray detector cell for X-ray morphology evaluation. The three methods may be used simultaneously if necessary.

4 – Using the information obtained by the three methods on the spatial distribution of the activity/morphology of the sample/animal, implement the intelligent/selective scanning method to be used in image acquisition and reconstruction. This implementation needs to be done both in terms of hardware (implementation of sensors in the system, synchronization of sensor acquisition with the movement of the two motors, design of adjustable EasyPET geometries, etc.) and software (data acquisition and image reconstruction, algorithm for optimized imaging).

5 – Evaluation of the systems assembled through the various approaches and comparison of the imaging results with the ones obtained by the conventional EasyPET system without acquisition optimization based on intelligent detector pre-imaging scan. The evaluation should be done mainly in terms of sensitivity, detection efficiency and image contrast, but also of spatial resolution, uniformity and noise equivalent count rate.
Research centre/lab or R&D unit hosting the thesis project:
DRIM lab (Deteção de Radiação e Imagiologia Médica) - Departamento de Física e I3N-Aveiro
University to which the thesis project will be presented:
UA - Universidade de Aveiro
DAEPHYS Scientific Domain in which the project fits:
Radiation, nuclear and atomic techniques
Relation of the project to the Scientific Domains of DAEPHYS:
This project is related to three of the five main scientific domains of DAEPHYS: Instrumentation, Optical Technologies and, most relevantly, to Radiation, nuclear and atomic techniques. The former is obvious since PET is a known nuclear medical imaging technique. The other two because the project aims to develop instrumentation, methods and associated software to obtain information on the spatial distribution/morphology of the object/subject to image, through a previous optical (infra-red or visible) or X-ray scan.
Candidate profile:
The candidate should have a strong background in physics or engineering (physics, biomedical, electrical, mechanics, computer science), preferentially with experience and knowledge on instrumentation, optical technologies and radiation/medical physics. Software development skills (matlab, c/c++, python) and experience on radiology or medical imaging are valued.
Does this proposal involve more than one University?:
Synergies between the two Universities participating in the proposal:
DAEPHYS strongly encourages the presentation of thesis projects in co-supervision by researchers from two of the universities participating in the Program. In this field, explain the benefits resulting from the proposed co-supervision and the involvement of elements from the two universities, e.g. building critical mass teams, profiting from existing infrastructures or advanced equipments, profiting from expert technical know-how, etc. If the proposal involves only one University, write n/a.
(recommended length: 500-1000 char)
Does this proposal involve a company?:
Proposals involving a company:
DAEPHYS strongly encourages the presentation of thesis projects involving a company, preferably a high-tech company. These proposals have to: 1) be centered on a technological problem in which the partner company has been (or plan / would like to be) involved; 2) have a co-supervisor on the enterprise; 3) include part of the project to be carried out in the company.
(recommended length: 500-1000 char)
: This project involves RI-TE Radiation Imaging Technologies, Lda, a spin-off startup from the University of Aveiro. The company develops systems and instrumentation for radiation detection and imaging and its main projects are related to EasyPET, a patented technology which has been licensed to RI-TE by the University of Aveiro, for application in the fields of preclinical small animal imaging and training of nuclear medicine professionals. Therefore, this research project is perfectly aligned with the company’s goals.



Name:João Filipe Calapez de Albuquerque Veloso
Institution:Universidade de Aveiro
link to CV or indication of ORCID ID:



Name:Ismael Filipe Correia de Castro
Institution:RI-TE Radiation Imaging Technologies, Lda
link to CV or indication of ORCID ID:


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