Professor Christian Langton with students who attended his lecture at USQ Fraser Coast.
Professor Christian Langton with students who attended his lecture at USQ Fraser Coast. Jocelyn Watts

Ultrasound expert gives talk to inspire future scientists

AN ULTRASOUND expert spoke to high school students at USQ Fraser Coast this week as part of a program designed to enthuse rural students about becoming scientists.

Professor Christian Langton was "delighted" at how the first lecture of his Australian Institute of Physics Queensland Youth Lecture Tour for 2013 was received on Monday.

"There was a high turn-out of students and teachers," Professor Langton said.

"There was a good mix of questions about the science I covered in my presentation and about my own career path.

"It was great to see that sort of intensity.

"Hopefully they all took something away."

Eighty-three Year 10-12 students and seven teachers from Xavier Catholic College, Hervey Bay State High School, Aldridge State High School and Urangan State High School attended the one-hour lecture on Monday.

It was about how quantitative ultrasound imaging and characterisation research and development in Queensland was enhancing medical diagnosis and treatment.

The physics professor who developed the technique of broadband ultrasonic attenuation for the assessment of osteoporosis said the lecture was part of a series hosted annually by the Queensland branch of the Australian Institute of Physics.

"It's about getting into rural Queensland to enthuse the students who are our future scientists," he said.

"We explain the research we're doing and try to get them interested so eventually they take it on themselves."

Professor Langton said his background was in developing ultrasound devises for the diagnoses and treatment of diseases.

"BUA is an ultrasound technique used to detect osteoporosis (fragile bones)," he said.

"The idea was to have something cheap, simple and portable so we can identify people who need either treatment, further investigation or nothing further.

"The device works via sound waves that travel through the heel bone.

"We change the frequency of the sound waves and see how much sound travels through and how much is recorded.

"The great thing is, it's so quick, portable and relatively low cost.

"That is important because as our aging population increases, the burden of osteoporosis is going to get worse.

"A quarter of people who have hip fractures die within a year, and a quarter never regain independent living.

"The device I am working on at the moment is a hand-held, portable device that can be used in developing worlds.

"It's great that in the larger cities of the developed world the necessary healthcare infrastructure is in place but developing worlds are less fortunate."

Professor Langton said the BUA device played an important role in the early detection of osteoporosis.

"Early detection is essential - you can't generally treat it but you can prevent further loss," he said.

"Osteoporosis is referred to as a silent epidemic.

"People often don't know they have it until they fall and break a bone.

"Until then they don't feel any symptoms or look any different.

"In later development, however, changes can be seen.

"That's when you'll see granny getting shorter or developing an arched back.

"It's because she is losing bone from the spine."

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