About Associate Professor Ricky O'Brien

A/Prof O'Brien works in medical device development with a focus in radiotherapy which is used to treat cancer patients. The research primarily involves using feedback from motion sensors that are placed on a patient to adjust image acquisition in real-time as a patient breathes and their heart beats. This type of work is at the cutting edge of several scientific disciplines including engineering medical devices, robotics and real-time control systems.

Tumours and organs are not stationary in the human body and they move as we breathe and our heart beats. This causes problems in radiotherapy where very high doses of radiation are targeted at a moving tumour with radiation damaging healthy organs if the tumour is missed. My research involves measuring the amount of tumour and organ motion when we breathe and our heart beats and then accounting for this motion when the radiation is delivered to the tumour. These projects cover classical medical physics, medical device development (i.e. engineering and robotics), computer science (real-time control systems and algorithm development) and mathematical optimisation. As such, our projects can be tailored to suit the skillset of the student.

A/Prof O'Brien is primarily funded by NHMRC development grants and Cancer Australia grants for respiratory and cardiac imaging projects and the work has been used to acquire funding to purchase medical devices (an Artis Zeego) to implement the real-time control systems. He has also developed the software control algorithms that underpin more than 10 clinical trials in radiotherapy. Prior to joining academia, A/Prof O'Brien spent more than 10 years working as a software developer in industry in both astrodynamics to financial optimisation. The practical skills gained in industry ensure that the research has practical outcomes and will benefit human health.

Selected publications

For a comprehensive list of A/Prof O'Brien's publicatons, please visit his Sydney Medical School profile.