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Nuclear Physics Detector Technology Applied to Molecular Imaging for Plant Biology Research

Wed., Jan. 25, 2017 3:00 p.m. - Wed., Jan. 25, 2017 4:00 p.m.

Location: CL 125

Contact: Dr. Drew Weisenberger

Abstract: The ability to detect the emissions of radioactive isotopes through radioactive decay (e.g. beta particles, x-rays and gamma-rays) has been used for over 80 years as a tracer method for studying biogeochemical processes before their use in medical applications. From the 1950's and beyond radioisotopes have since been employed as radiotracers in the medical field of nuclear medicine imaging using two classes of radioisotopes: positron emitting radioisotopes and single photon emitting radioisotopes. More recently a positron emitting radioisotope of carbon: 11C has been utilized as a 11CO2 tracer for plant ecophysiology research using molecular imaging. Because of the ease of incorporating the carbon dioxide molecule into the plant via photosynthesis, the 11CO2 radiotracer is a powerful tool for use in plant biology research. Positron emission tomography (PET) imaging has been used to study carbon transport in live plants using 11CO2. The Radiation Detector and Imaging Group at Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility in Virginia has been developing detector systems for radioisotope imaging for above and below ground real-time plant studies. The group in collaboration with the Duke University Phytotron and the Triangle Universities Nuclear Laboratory developed “PhytoPET” and “PhytoBeta” (for direct beta particle detection) for plant imaging with corn, poplar, oak and barley utilizing technologies developed for nuclear physics research.  Additionally, there is interest in studying the biology of the rhizosphere because of its importance in plant nutrient-interactions. I will briefly discuss radioisotope based molecular imaging in its application to plant biology and the instrumentation development efforts of the Radiation Detector and Imaging Group and others in this area.

Speaker: Drew Weisenberger is head of the Radiation Detector and Imaging Group and the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) at Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility (Jefferson Lab). Jefferson Lab is a US Department of Energy nuclear physics research laboratory in Newport News, Virginia. He holds bachelor's and master's degrees in astronomy and a Ph.D. from The College of William and Mary in applied science.  Since 1990, he has been a member of the Experimental Nuclear Physics Division's Radiation Detector and Imaging Group and took on leadership of the group in 2008. He leads the group in support of Jefferson Lab's Experimental Nuclear Physics program and leverages the group's technology advances in applications beyond nuclear physics. The group has developed application specific radiation imaging systems for clinical, pre-clinical and plant biology research with involvement from numerous collaborators. Dr. Weisenberger has extensive experience in the physics of the operation, design and construction of scintillator and solid state based radiation detectors for both non-imaging and imaging applications. He has used his radiation physics expertise for radioisotope detection in clinical, pre-clinical and more recently in plant biology research. He has authored or coauthored over a hundred articles on instrumentation development and applications published as research papers, review articles, book chapters or conference records. He has 16 US patents and several pending. In 2009 he was one of the recipients of the 2009 “Excellence in Technology Transfer” award by the Federal Laboratory Consortium for Technology Transfer for “Breast Specific Gamma Imaging.” In 2015 Dr. Weisenberger accepted the additional role of CTO for Jefferson Lab. As CTO, he is responsible for advancing the development of technology from Jefferson Lab’s research programs and facilitating the transfer of technologies to industry.