My Recommendation Letter Guidelines/Policies

Many students ask me for recommendation letters and I take the responsibility very seriously.  A recommendation letter should showcase a student’s strengths and convince the selection committee that this student will be excellent for the summer program, scholarship, or graduate program.  In order for my letters to do this, I’ve established a few policies to ensure that I have the information and time required to have each letter be as strong as possible.

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Speaking at the International Conference on Monte Carlo Techniques for Medical Applications

I am very pleased to be presenting work at the International Conference on Monte Carlo Techniques for Medical Applications (MCMA2017), October 15- 18 in Naples, Italy.  I am speaking in the “Monte Carlo applications in microdosimetry” section on Tuesday (full presentation info below).  This is my first time attending this conference, but the research topics are a great match to my interests.

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Published: Radioluminescence from Tc-99m in glass predicts local dose

My second article, from my research leave in Italy, has just been published online.  The link below will allow you to read the article for free, until November 4, 2017.

Physica Medica Volume 42, October 2017, Pages 112–115

Radioluminescence from Tc-99m in glass predicts local dose

Nicole L. Ackerman, Federico Boschi, Antonello E. Spinelli


The widely-used gamma-emitter Tc-99m has been shown to lead to optical emissions in mice and glass. We investigated the possibility that these emissions are due to the Cerenkov effect and whether the light emitted is proportional to local dose. By using a Geant4 Monte Carlo model matched to an experimental measurement, we show that the light detected by a small animal optical imaging system provides a 2D map of the dose throughout a glass sample. We conclude that radioluminescence from Tc-99m can be used to quantitatively measure dose in transparent materials, which could have applications in dosimetry and quality assurance.

Second Paper Accepted!

My second paper, from my leave in the spring, has been accepted at Physica Medica.  A link will be posted to the article when it is in press, but the title is “Radioluminescence from Tc-99m in Glass Predicts Local Dose”.  I’m glad that my 3-month research leave resulted in two papers, and I am very grateful for the support I received from Agnes Scott: the Julia T. Gary Science Fund and Dorothy Travis Joyner Faculty Innovation Fund.

Eclipse 2017: Pretending to be an astronomer

I’m frequently a little jealous of my astronomy colleagues – they teach the courses that are more fun and get to show a lot of amazing pictures in their talks.  Physics, when compared to astronomy, is less fun, more intimidating, and waaaaay less pretty.  With all of my astronomy colleagues up north viewing the totality, I had the opportunity to be the “astronomer” on campus today.

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Paper Published in JBO!

Monte Carlo simulations support non-Cerenkov radioluminescence production in tissue

Nicole L. Ackerman
Agnes Scott College, Department of Physics and Astronomy, Decatur, Georgia (United States)
Federico Boschi
University of Verona, Department of Computer Science, Verona (Italy)
Antonello E. Spinelli
San Raffaele Scientific Institute, Centre for Experimental Imaging, Department of Medical Physics, M (Italy)
J. of Biomedical Optics, 22(8), 086002 (2017). doi:10.1117/1.JBO.22.8.086002
There is experimental evidence for the production of non-Cerenkov radioluminescence in a variety of materials, including tissue. We constructed a Geant4 Monte Carlo simulation of the radiation from P 32 and Tc99 m interacting in chicken breast and used experimental imaging data to model a scintillation-like emission. The same radioluminescence spectrum is visible from both isotopes and cannot otherwise be explained through fluorescence or filter miscalibration. We conclude that chicken breast has a near-infrared scintillation-like response with a light yield three orders of magnitude smaller than BGO.

Getting ready for fall semester!

My summer has been filled with wonderful travel and research, but now I am 100% focused on fall courses.  Both of my fall courses are getting revamped!  Intro physics has a very new structure, and electronics has been changed from a two-course sequence to a single course.  Both of these courses need new schedules, activities, and assignments.  While I have been working hard all summer, getting to August has accelerated my work!

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Paper Accepted!

My paper “Monte Carlo Simulations Support Non-Cerenkov Radioluminescence Production in Tissue”, written with Federico Boschi and Antonello E Spinelli, has been accepted to the Journal of Biomedical Optics. This paper covers research that I performed this spring, while on leave at Ospedale San Raffaele, in Milan.

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Teaching Nuns through ETSI


This is my 3rd year teaching monks through the ETSI program, but this is the first year that a separate course was held for nuns.  I was very fortunate to be selected to stay longer in India to co-teach the first year physics curriculum with Prof. Heidi Manning.  This program will continue for a few years, and I hope that I will again have the opportunity to teach the nuns!

A video on the nuns is available below (made by wonderful on-site professional videographers!)