John Monash scholar to help fight paediatric cancer

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

University of Adelaide medical physics honours student Mark Brooke has become the University’s 15th John Monash Scholar.

Announced at the Sydney Opera House last night by NSW Premier Mike Baird, Mark is the only South Australian to receive one of the prestigious scholarships. He will use his scholarship to pursue his research interest in proton therapy – a more targeted radiation therapy suitable for treating cancer in children.

“I'm very proud to be named a John Monash Scholar,” says Mark. “The foundation provides outstanding support, not only during the course of study but throughout one's entire career. I look forward to making a real difference in Australia's future through improving the quality of radiation therapy.

“Proton therapy is much more targeted than conventional X-ray therapy, making it vital for tackling paediatric cancers and tumours located near critical structures such as the brain stem or spinal cord. Australia really must implement proton therapy treatment if we wish to provide top quality care for cancer sufferers. Switzerland has become a world leader in both research and implementation of proton therapy, and I am committed to seeing Australia follow this same path.”

During a summer research project and in his honours year, Mark developed two new algorithms for proton therapy. Next September, with the help of the John Monash Scholarship sponsored by the Ian Potter Foundation, Mark plans to start a Master of Science in Biomedical Engineering at ETH Zurich, Switzerland.

The John Monash Scholarships are awarded to outstanding Australians with leadership potential and support up to three years of postgraduate study at prestigious universities around the world.

“Mark is an outstanding young academic, and our national panel were enormously impressed with him,” says Dr Peter Binks, Interim CEO with the General Sir John Monash Foundation. “His field of proton therapy for cancer is a very important one, with great implications for both Adelaide and Australia.”

As a child, Mark had an aversion to hospitals. As a haemophiliac, he regularly visited hospitals three-four times a week.

While he’s been able to live a largely unrestricted lifestyle, he was hospitalised for several days with serious bleeding in his lungs while studying for his final high school exams. Mark overcame this set back to still achieve a perfect score ATAR (99.95) and become Dux of his school, Immanuel College.

“It took all my mental strength to complete my studies, but I found solace in the science, realising that illness is something that can be understood and treated,” he says. “I no longer fear hospitals; instead I want to help others similarly overcome their illnesses.”

At the University of Adelaide, Mark has won a variety of awards including a 2014 Prime Minister’s Australia Asia Outgoing Undergraduate Award – enabling him to undertake an internship in the Medical Physics Unit of the Queen Mary Hospital in Hong Kong – and achieved a Grade Point Average of 6.818/7 in his Honours Degree of Bachelor of Science in High Performance Computational Physics.

He has been an active volunteer, including as a mentor in the University’s Peer Mentoring Program and in the Peer Assisted Study Sessions. He also volunteers as a children’s tennis coach. Having to avoid contact sports, Mark embraced tennis and has competed at a high level.


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Ms Robyn Mills
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The University of Adelaide
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