At the Centre of Medical Radiation Physics (CMRP), School of Engineering Physics, Faculty of Engineering, at the University of Wollongong (UOW), we are implementing a hands-on computing laboratory, commencing in autumn 2010, to teach scientific computing methods and modern, advanced research tools for radiation physics to postgraduate and undergraduate students. Engaging undergraduates and postgraduates together in work with a tool widely used in research laboratories is a unique development, and represents the articulation of the University’s commitment to the enhancement of the teaching/research nexus, and to the development of learning communities. The object of the laboratory is to teach students how to use Geant4 in the study of radiation physics related problems. Geant4 (www.cern.ch/geant4) is a Monte Carlo Simulation Toolkit, describing the interactions of particles with matter. It is widely used in research laboratories all over the world, from High Energy Physics to medical physics and space science. While the Geant4 Collaboration organizes courses all around the world to familiarise researchers and postgraduates with the Toolkit, insufficient attention is paid to undergraduates. The objectives of our program are that, upon completion of the practical laboratory, the students will be familiar with radiation physics and its applications, software development methods, computing instruments for research, the Monte Carlo approach, and the C++ language. They will also have had a unique opportunity to improve their problem solving skills and research methodologies. The design of the Geant4 hands-on lab faces two important issues: the heterogeneous computing skills and differing knowledge of radiation physics amongst students. Independent of their education grade, students have different expertise with programming, and computing matters in general. This problem can easily be overcome as Geant4 is developed for use by those with minimal computing expertise. However, the correct use of Geant4 requires a deep knowledge of radiation physics; this poses the second issue faced. The higher levels of motivation of postgraduate students will be one factor supporting undergraduates, in that working with Geant4 should foster a learning community, with peer learning and teaching occurring, and also provide undergraduates with a sense of future. Furthermore, we think we can overcome the problem of lower levels of knowledge through designing a guided hands-on course, providing Geant4 simulation exercises for students, based on their level of preparation. This course has high potential to increase the commitment of students towards radiation physics.
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/susanna_guatelli/13/