David Brenner sees the good and the bad sides of radiation for health care, and his goal is to optimize radiation for situations where the benefits can be large and the risks small.
Radiation is very much a two-edged sword - used in the right way it has revolutionized modern medicine - such as through CT scans and as a cure for many cancers. But radiation used in the wrong way can be harmful. To maximize the benefits of the many different types of radiation, we need to understand exactly how they affect us - from our DNA to the whole person.
David Brenner directs the Center for Radiological Research at Columbia University Medical Center in New York City. The Center, now in its 102nd year, was founded by a student of Marie Curie with the goal of exploiting radiation to improve medical care.
David started his career in theoretical physics - applying quantum mechanics to radiation therapy. While he has no doubt forgotten everything he knew about quantum mechanics, he has retained his love for applying hard-core physics concepts to solve biological problems. David has designed new "patient friendly" approaches for prostate cancer radiation therapy that are now in common use worldwide, and he is currently very excited about the prospects of beating pancreatic cancer with new types of radiation.
Over the past 6 years David has also been working towards a safe way to kill drug-resistant bacteria such as MRSA, as well as airborne viruses such as influenza, using a unique type of ultra-violet light.
David hails from Liverpool in the UK, and the Beatles and the soccer club remain very close to his heart.