On Wednesday 26 April, Professor S. (Sytze) Brandenburg received a Royal Decoration. He has been appointed Knight of the Order of the Netherlands Lion. Mayor P.E.J. Den Oudsten of the Municipality of Groningen presented the decoration in the Groningen Town Hall.
For three decades, Professor of Accelerator Physics Sytze Brandenburg (Leeuwarden, 1954) has been one of the world’s leading experts in the field of cyclotron particle accelerators and their diverse applications in healthcare, for example in proton therapy in cancer treatment. His impressive scientific knowledge, his drive to innovate and his clearly formulated advice, that takes into account urban planning requirements, have resulted in the foundation of the Groningen Proton Therapy Center (GPTC) that is currently being built for the University Medical Center Groningen.
Before the end of the year, the first cancer patients will be treated by the GPTC, using a newly developed method in which tumours are tackled without surgery or chemotherapy, thus not damaging surrounding tissue and vital organs. Radiation therapy will then substantially increase a patient’s life expectancy. In addition to the GPTC, three more centres for proton therapy are going to be opened in the Netherlands. Proton therapy would not have been possible in the Netherlands if it weren’t for Brandenburg’s efforts, contributions and expertise.
Brandenburg’s extensive network has led to many collaborative projects. Recently, for example, a collaboration with UMC Utrecht has been set up to see if a research facility for MRI-guided proton therapy can be realized. The project, combining Brandenburg’s expertise and the UMC Utrecht’s expertise in the field of MRI-guided radiotherapy, is unique in the world.
Brandenburg’s contribution plays a crucial role in the design of accelerators for medical appliances at treatment centres all over the world. These centres often consult Brandenburg for his scientific and business economics expertise, as his advice is essential in improving the feasibility and operational reliability of their appliances.
For the past two decades, Brandenburg has been responsible for the operations of the AGOR cyclotron particle accelerator the UG uses for scientific research. He kept improving the accelerator, went looking for and found new applications, thereby becoming a world leader in this field. At the international conferences he organized, his aim was to promote accelerator physics among his colleagues and train them in it, ensuring that his knowledge and experience would travel to as many countries as possible.
In 2014 Brandenburg applied for a patent for a method whereby the dose distribution of the energy release by accelerated charged particles in water can be measured very accurately by adding a chemical substance to the water, even with the high doses that are usual in clinical circumstances. This research has led to a new national standard to accurately measure radiation doses.
Brandenburg’s knowledge and experience and interest in social issues have led to him being asked for advice on new methods to improve chip manufacturing by ASML. In addition, he is particularly active in developing methods to determine the radiation hardness of electronic components used in high-quality technological products in the aviation, aerospace and automotive industries.
Brandenburg’s role in all these developments is characterized by him leading and initiating scientific discussions about radiation effects on matter, his expert understanding of radiation detection methods, and his substantial knowledge of the fields of fundamental as well as applied physics. The fruits of his scientific research can be found in his long list of publications in prestigious journals, covering not only physics but also medicine.
Throughout the world, people benefit from Brandenburg’s advice and expertise to improve particle accelerators and their application. His thorough, clear and accurately formulated advice make him a welcome partner in councils that focus on large and complex facilities such as SPIRAL2 in France and ISOLDE at CERN in Switzerland. These facilities are leading in their fields.
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