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Professor Fiona McNeill  
Area: Medical Physics
Fiona McNeill
Location: NRB 230
Phone: 905-525-9140 ext 21437
Fax: (905)546-1252
  1. Research Profile
  2. Recent Publication List


Research Excellence

Trace Toxic Elements

The main focus of my research is the development of biomedical devices based on radiation physics techniques for the in vivo measurement of trace toxic elements. In the last few years, my graduate students have built the first in vivo systems in the world for the painless, non-invasive and low dose measurement of arsenic, gadolinium and fluoride. We use two main techniques for these devices; neutron activation analysis (NAA) and x-ray fluorescence (XRF) analysis.

In addition to building biomedical systems, I apply them to studies of human health and exposure. My research has helped the understanding of human health effects from lead (Pb) exposure; my work has shown that Pb can result in elevated blood pressure and early menopause in women. Recently we discovered that people living in Hamilton have measurable levels of fluoride in their bones and a major source of exposure is tea drinking. We have been studying gadolinium and this element is used in image enhancement drugs for MRI. The Gd may be detaching from the chelate which could be potentially toxic, so we are developing systems to measure long term uptake of detached Gd in bone.

Some of the reasons I study toxic metals are explained in the Research2Reality video which can be found at under ‘measuring health effects of metal exposure’.


Radiation Tools in Cultural Heritage

In recent years, I have used radiation tools in the study of art and cultural heritage. I was a member of a team who studied nine works of art from the McMaster Museum of Art. This resulted in an exhibition, The Unvarnished Truth: Exploring the Material History of Paintings, which is travelling across Canada until 2017. The work is also presented in the interactive website .

Low Dose Radiation Effects

For the last few years, I have been collaborating with Professors Colin Seymour and Carmel Mothersill from the Department of Biology. We have been studying the effects of low level exposure to radiation types that include x- and γ-rays and neutrons. We have recently shown that cells, when exposed to radiation, emit a UV signal which can cause effects in nearby cells that were not exposed to the initial radiation. The UV causes a ‘halo’ of effect. We are continuing to explore whether this UV signaling is an important aspect of low dose radiation effects.


1. Graafe JL, McNeill FE, Byun SH, Noseworthy M and Chettle DR (2011) A benchmarked MCNP model of the in vivo detection of gadolinium by prompt gamma neutron activation analysis NIM B 268 (15) 2451-2457
2. Graafe JL, McNeill FE, Byun SH, Chettle DR, Noseworthy MD (2011) The feasibility of in vivo detection of gadolinium by prompt gamma neutron activation analysis following gadolinium-based contrast-enhanced MRI Appl Radiat Isot. Jan;69(1):105-11
3. Payne M, Egden L, Behinaein S, Chettle D, McNeill F and Webber C (2011) Bone Lead Measurement Can Fam Physician 56 (11) 1110-1111
4. Wang C, Smith RW,Duhig J, Prestwich WJ, Byun SH, McNeill FE ,Seymour CE and Mothersill CM, (2011) Neutrons do not produce a bystander effect in zebrafish irradiated in vivo International Journal of Radiation Biology. 87 (9) 964-973
5. Gräfe JL, McNeill FE, Chettle DR and Byun SH. (2012) Characteristic X ray emission in gadolinium following neutron capture as an improved method of in vivo measurement: A comparison between feasibility experiment and Monte–Carlo simulation NIM B 281 21-25
6. M Chamberlain, J L Gräfe, Aslam, S H Byun, D R Chettle, L M Egden, G M Orchard, C E Webber, and F E McNeill (2012) The feasibility of in vivo quantification of bone-fluorine in humans by delayed neutron activation analysis: a pilot study Physiological Measurement 33 (2) 243-257
7. M Chamberlain, J L Gräfe, Aslam, S H Byun, D R Chettle, L M Egden, G M Orchard, C E Webber, and F E McNeill (2012) In vivo quantification of bone-fluorine by delayed neutron activation analysis: a pilot study of hand bone-fluorine levels in a Canadian population Physiological Measurement 33 (3) 375-384
8. S.B. Ahmad, F.E. McNeill, S.H. Byun, W.V. Prestwich, C. Seymour and C.E. Mothersill (2012) Ion Beam Induced Luminescence; Relevance to Radiation Induced Bystander Effects NIM B 288 81-88
9. C.E. Mothersill, R.W. Smith, J. Fazzari, F.E. McNeill, W.V. Prestwich and C. Seymour (2012) Evidence for a physical component to the radiation-­induced bystander effect? International Journal of Radiation Biology 88 (8) 583-591
10. S. Behinaein, D.R. Chettle, L.M. Egden, F.E. McNeill, G. Norman, N. Richard and S. Stever. (2012) Nonlinearity in the relationship between bone lead concentrations and CBLI for lead smelter employees Journal of Environmental Monitoring 14 3267-3275
11. B.L.MacDonald, R.G.V. Hancock, A.Cannon , F. McNeill, R. Reimer and A.Pidruczny. Elemental Analysis of Ochre Outcrops in Southern British Columbia, Canada. Archeometry (accepted)
12. S.B. Ahmad, J.E. Thompson, F.E. McNeill, S.H. Byun, W.V. Prestwich, C. Seymour and C.E. Mothersill. (2013) Particle Induced X-Ray Emission and Ion Dose Distribution in Biological Micro-beam; Geant4 Monte Carlo Simulations NIM B 295 30-37
13. S.B. Ahmad, F.E. McNeill, S.H. Byun, W.V. Prestwich, C. Seymour, C.E. Mothersill, A. Armstrong, C. Fernandez Ultra-violet light emission from HPV-G cells irradiated with Low LET radiation from Y-90; consequences for radiation induced bystander effects Dose Response (accepted)
14. E.D. Desouza, I. A. Atiya, A. Al-Ebraheem, B.C. Wainman, D.E.B. Fleming, F.E. McNeill, M. J. Farquharson. (2013) Characterization of the depth distribution of Ca, Fe and Zn in skin samples, using synchrotron micro-X-Ray Fluorescence (S-microXRF) to help quantify in-vivo measurements of elements in the skin Applied Radiation and Isotopes 77 68-75
15. F Mostafaei, F.E.McNeill, D.R.Chettle,W.V.Prestwich and M. Inskip (2013) Design of a phantom equivalent to measure bone-fluorine in a human’s hand via delayed neutron activation analysis Physiological Measurement 34 503-512
16. M Gherase, ED Desouza, MJ Farquharson, FE McNeill, CY Kim, and DEB Fleming (2013) X-ray fluorescence measurements of arsenic micro-distribution in human nail clippings using synchrotron radiation Physiological Measurement 34 (9) 1163
17. F Mostafaei, F.E.McNeill, D.R.Chettle,W.V.Prestwich (2013)Improvements in an In Vivo Neutron Activation Analysis (NAA) Method for the Measurement of Fluorine in Bone Physiological Measurement 34 1329
18. S.B. Ahmed, FE McNeill, SH Byun, WV prestwich and CEM Mothersill. (2014) Quantification of ultraviolet photon emission from interaction of charged particles in materials of interest in radiation biology research NIM B 319 48-54
19. S. Behinaein, DR Chettle, LM Egden, FE McNeill, G Norman, N Richard and S Stever (2014) The estimation of the rates of lead exchange between body compartments of smelter employees Environmental Science: Processes & Impacts (in press)
20. O Ponomarenko, MR Gherase, MS LeBlanc, C-Y Kim, ED Desouza, MJ Farquharson, FE McNeill,S Nehzati, IJ Pickering, GN George, and DEB Fleming. (2014)Synchrotron XAS analysis of arsenic chemical speciation in human nail clippings Environmental Chemistry (in press)
21. S Behinaein, DR Chettle, L Marro, M Malowany, M Fisher, DEB Fleming, N Healey, M Inskip, TE Arbuckle and FE McNeill (2014) Factors influencing uncertainties of in vivo bone lead measurement using a109Cd K X-ray fluorescence clover leaf geometry detector system Environ Science: Processes Impacts 16, 2742-2751
22. F Mostafaei, FE McNeill, DR Chettle, BC Wainman, AE Pidruczny and W V Prestwich (2015) Measurements of fluorine in contemporary urban Canadians: a comparison of the levels found in human bone using in vivo and ex vivo neutron activation analysis Physiological Measurement 36:3 465-
23. M Le, FE McNeill, CSeymour, AJ Rainbow and CE Mothersill (2015) An Observed Effect of Ultraviolet Radiation Emitted from Beta-Irradiated HaCaT Cells upon Non-Beta-Irradiated Bystander Cells Radiation Research 183:3 279-290
24. A Al-Ebraheem, E Dao, E Desouza, C Li, BC Wainman, FE McNeill and MJ Farquharson (2015) Effect of sample preparation techniques on the concentrations and distributions of elements in biological tissues using µSRXRF: a comparative study Physiological Measurement (in press)
25. F Mostafaei, FE McNeill, DR Chettle and MD Noseworthy (2015)A feasibility study to determine the potential of in vivo detection of gadolinium by x-ray fluorescence (XRF) following gadolinium-based contrast-enhanced MRI Physiological Measurement (in press)
26. F Mostafaei, FE McNeill, DR Chettle, W Matysiak, C Bhatai and WV Prestwich (2015) An investigation of the neutron flux in bone-fluorine phantoms comparing accelerator based in vivo neutron activation analysis and FLUKA simulation data NIM B 342 249-257
27. M Le, CE Mothersill, C B Seymour, SB Ahmad, A Armstrong, A J Rainbow and FE McNeill (2015) Factors Affecting Ultraviolet-A photon emission from β-irradiated human keratinocyte cells. Phys. Med. Biol. 60 (2015) 6371-6389
28. JL Grafe, DR Chettle and FE McNeill (2015) In vivo detection of samarium by prompt gamma neutron activation analysis: a comparison between experiment and Monte-Carlo simulation Journal of Analytical Atomic Spectroscopy
29. JW MacMillan, S Behinaein, DR Chettle, M Inskip, FE McNeill, WI Manton, N Healey, M Fisher, TE Arbuckle and DEB Fleming (2015) Physiologically Based Modeling of Lead Kinetics: A Pilot Study Using Data from a Canadian Population Environmental Science: processes and Impacts (in press)
30. BL MacDonald, J O’Meara, J Vanderstelt and FE McNeill. Non-Destructive Investigation of a Time Capsule using Neutron Radiography and X-Ray Fluorescence (2015) NIM B (accepted).
31. H Shehab, E Desouza; J O’Meara, A Pejovic-Milic, D Chettle, D Fleming and F McNeill (2015) Feasibility of measuring arsenic and selenium in human skin using in vivo X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) – a comparison of methods. Physiological Measurement (accepted)