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Dr Mitra Safavi Naeini

Dr Mitra Safavi-Naeini

Senior Physicist and Research Lead, Human Health

Role at ANSTO

Dr Mitra Safavi-Naeini is a Senior Physicist and Research Lead in Human Health at ANSTO. Mitra is a prolific researcher in the field of particle physics and medical radiation physics. Her two main research areas are: radiotherapy (proton and heavy ion therapy, brachytherapy, photon therapy) - particularly in relation to treatment methods for cancers with poor prognoses - and medical imaging quantification (with a specific focus on PET).

Mitra has a strong track record in R&D in medical radiation physics/engineering and is an expert in using analytical and Monte Carlo simulation techniques to solve medical physics problems.

Mitra is one of the co-inventors of neutron capture enhanced particle therapy (NCEPT). She has brought together a multi-disciplinary team of expert scientists with the best skills and expertise to confirm the simulation results via preclinical studies, with the ultimate goal of clinical translation. She has led and participated in all proof-of-concept experiments in Australia and Japan. Mitra has presented NCEPT to several clinical and industry stakeholders and has successfully brought together a large group of international industry and academic partners to form a consortium around the NCEPT project and its translation.

She is a member of the GEANT4 “Advanced Example” and “Physics List and Validation Tools” Workgroups and is regarded as a world-renowned research leader in the particle therapy and neutron capture therapy community.

Mitra graduated with a PhD in medical physics in 2013, at the University of Wollongong, Wollongong, Australia, under the supervision of Distinguished Professor Anatoly Rozenfeld. 

After completing her PhD, she was first employed as Postdoctoral Research Fellow (NHMRC Early Career Fellowship) at the University of Wollongong, and later joining ANSTO as a Research Fellow in 2016. Since 2017 she is a senior physicist and a research project leader at ANSTO and a National Imaging Facility fellow (ANSTO/University of Sydney Node).

In addition to her scientific research, Mitra has also enjoyed competing in challenging technical hackathons, leading three teams to wins in Australian and international competitions in 2020. 

Expertise

Particle physics, Medical radiation physics, Particle therapy, Neutron capture therapy, Radiotherapy, Proton and heavy ion therapy, Brachytherapy, Synchrotron microbeam radiotherapy, Medical imaging quantification (with a specific focus on PET) and, analytical and Monte Carlo simulation techniques in medical physics procedures.

Qualifications and achievements

  • Team Leader for the winning Elavo team in the NASA Space Apps COVID-19 Hackathon (2020)
  • Team Leader for the winning GaiaPOD team in the ANZDF #Shockproof Hackathon (2020)
  • Team Leader for the winning Uspace team in the ACS “Flatten The Curve” Hackathon (2020)
  • Winner of the ANSTO Most Impactful Engagement Prize (2020)
  • Researcher of the Year, ANSTO (2019)
  • Winner of Partnership with Impact Prize (Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation), ANSTO (2019)
  • Winner of George Collins Award for Innovation (Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation), ANSTO (2018)
  • Yamagiwa Yoshida International Fellowship Award UICC (2018)
  • Winner of the Australian-Germany Innovation Travel Fund, Fraunhofer-Gelleschaft (2018)
  • Prime Minister’s Science Award, Finalist, Australian Academy of Science and Department of Science, Innovation and Technology (2018)
  • Fellow, Union for International Cancer Control (2018)
  • Best PhD Thesis Award - Runner up, Australian Institute of Physics (2013)
  • PhD in Medical Physics from the University of Wollongong, Australia (2013)
  • Paul Phelps Continuing Education Award, IEEE NPSS (2008, 2009)
  • Trailblazer Award, Uniquest (2009)
  • Best student paper/presentation, Australian College of Physical Scientists and Engineers in Medicine (2008)

Committees, affiliations and memberships

  • Member of the Scientific Advisory Committee for the Australian Synchrotron Merit Access grant from 2014 to 2016
  • Scientific expert for the Australian Centre for Neutron Scattering since 2017.
  • Referee for Elsevier Journals Scientific Reports, Institute of Physics Journals Physics in Medicine and Biology, Biomedical Physics & Engineering Express and Journal of Instrumentation.
  • Active member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (since 2009), Australian Institute of Physics (since 2013), Australian Society of Medical Imaging and Radiation Therapy (since 2016), Australian Society of Molecular Imaging (since 2016).
  • Invited member of the Australian College of Physical Scientists and Engineers in Medicine Particle Therapy Workgroup (2018).
  • Mitra is a strong proponent of gender equity, and has organised and participated in a number of activities to engage and encourage young women to choose a career in STEM. She has organised the Physics activities during the Summer School for Women at the University of Wollongong (2014 – 2016) and has served as a mentor on the AINSE WISE program (2018 – 2020).