The Eugene V. Benton Radiation Physics Laboratory (EVBRPL) at Oklahoma State University is involved in a broad range of research concerning ionizing radiation and its effects on matter, especially as it relates to human health and safety. Current research efforts are concentrated in two distinct areas: 1) the radiation protection of space crews during long duration missions aboard the International Space Station (ISS) and on future human missions to the Moon and Mars, and 2) proton and heavy ion cancer therapy. Research projects related to radiation safety of space crews include a NASA-sponsored effort to develop and characterize a new generation of tissue equivalent ionization chambers and proportional counters for astronaut dosimetry aboard spacecraft and Lunar or planetary habitats, assessing shielding materials to protect space crews from exposure to elevated levels of cosmic radiation during long duration space missions, and a leading role in the ICCHIBAN project, an international effort to intercompare and calibrate the response of space radiation detectors and dosimeters under the controlled conditions produced by particle accelerators. Research related to proton and heavy ion cancer therapy includes measuring and calculating the radiation dose to healthy tissue surrounding a cancerous tumor during proton cancer treatment including the contribution from proton-induced nuclear interactions and the contribution from secondary neutrons. The laboratory is also developing a portable, self-contained tissue equivalent proportional counter for use in characterizing and calibrating proton and heavy ion therapy beams and in verifying treatment protocols.
The Eugene V. Benton Radiation Physics Laboratory is not only a research laboratory, but also a teaching laboratory. Undergraduate and graduate level courses in radiation detection and measurement make use of the lab’s equipment for demonstrations and student experiments. In addition, the laboratory is home to a number of student-led efforts to develop inexpensive, easy-to-build instruments and experiments for use by high school and undergraduate college students studying physics and related disciplines.