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How Sarah’s medical imaging tech could be a Game Changer for our clean out

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The Game Changers programme sets up challenges to solve our decommissioning problems at Sellafield Ltd. It’s a way of getting new insight into our trickiest challenges, and brings in ideas and expertise from outside our industry.

Following International Women’s Day this week, we’re focusing on some of the women working to make a real difference at Sellafield Ltd.

Dr Sarah Bugby, Loughborough University Physics Lecturer, leads one of Game Changers’ most promising projects, developing Gamma Optical Video Imaging (GOVI) for use in Post Operational Clean Out at Sellafield.

Based on technology originally devised for medical imaging by the Universities of Leicester and Nottingham, GOVI combines optical and gamma imaging to produce a real-time display of areas being scanned.

Sarah, who studied and worked at Leicester before moving on to Loughborough University, has been involved in extensive development of the technology for medical applications and now, working with Sellafield Ltd and Game Changers, she is identifying adaptations of GOVI needed for nuclear decommissioning.

She said she discovered Game Changers by a lucky coincidence while working on hybrid gamma imaging for nuclear medicine. Discussing with a colleague possible further applications for the technology, a small market survey was held to determine other areas it could be useful. "From that, someone mentioned a Game Changers event and suggested I might attend", Sarah said.

She did attend, pitched at the event and, from there, began the Game Changers journey.

Sarah said:

It's really exciting and, above all, I really hope it meets Sellafield Ltd's expectations.

I already know that some of the things we have done, we will continue working on. And I can see other technologies that, though not necessarily fully developed yet, I can bring to Sellafield Ltd's attention.

Game Changers have what she described as a greater "route" within Sellafield Ltd, facilitating sharing with people across different areas.

To anyone considering the Game Changers programme

Sarah's advice is simple: "Do it!" She also said they should be as open as possible about their technology. Engage with the programme and take advantage of everything it has to offer.

Wider benefits of Game Changers for Sarah include the Fellowship Scheme, a wraparound training programme helping people to commercialise their ideas and attract further funding.

Sarah said:

I personally, and the other delegates too, find this really useful. It’s particularly helpful for people like me who don’t already run a business and equally important for those who are in industry.

Sarah didn't have a burning ambition to be a scientist from childhood days but said she always knew she loved science.

I suppose you could probably blame David Attenborough, I always loved reading natural history books and I enjoyed breaking things to see how they worked.

Physics wasn't originally top of Sarah's agenda

But at Leicester, I found I really enjoyed research projects. I love learning new things.

I'm lucky I really enjoy what I do. I really like teaching and very much enjoy my research work which brings me into contact with companies and hospitals in the real world.

Women in scientific academia and research are still relatively rare

You get used to often being the only woman at meetings, said Sarah and I really want that to change.

She advises girls thinking of following a physics path: "If they enjoy it, they should do it. Even if you don’t base a career on it, choosing to study physics is not shutting doors, it's opening them.

They should be confident in their ability and not think that because others may be willing to talk more loudly about their ideas that they are necessarily right. And I strongly recommend people should take maths as well. It's the tool physicists use to explain things.

Although usually in a minority in the science arena, Sarah said she has never felt discriminated against. She is strongly supportive of the Institute of Physics campaign, Limit Less, designed to support and encourage young people to change the world and fulfil their physics potential.

Sarah's current personal objective is to fulfil the potential of the Game Changer GOVI project and she has high hopes for a live demonstration of the technology at Sellafield after the culmination of the proof of concept stage.

That would be huge, she said.

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