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Faculty of Science Radiation Sciences Graduate Program (RadGrad)
Faculty of Science

Radiation Sciences Graduate Program (RadGrad)

Fiona McNeill

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Office:NRB 230

Phone:(905) 525-9140 ext. 21437

Fax:(905) 546-1252

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  • 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 ‘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.

  • Lord, M. L., McNeill, F. E., Gräfe, J. L., Noseworthy, M. D., & Chettle, D. R. (2016). A phantom-based feasibility study for detection of gadolinium in bone in-vivo using X-ray fluorescence. Applied Radiation and Isotopes, 112, 103-109.

    Le MT, Mothersill CE, Seymour CB, McNeill FE (2016). Is the false-positive rate in mammography in North America too high? British Journal of Radiology, 89(1065), 20160045.

    Shehab, H., Desouza, E. D., O’Meara, J., Pejović-Milić, A., Chettle, D. R., Fleming, D. E. B., & McNeill, F. E. (2015). Feasibility of measuring arsenic and selenium in human skin using in vivo x-ray fluorescence (XRF)—a comparison of methods. Physiological measurement, 37(1), 145.

    MacDonald, B. L., Vanderstelt, J., O’Meara, J., & McNeill, F. E. (2016). Non-destructive investigation of a time capsule using neutron radiography and X-ray fluorescence. Nuclear Instruments and Methods in Physics Research Section B: Beam Interactions with Materials and Atoms, 367, 46-52.

    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

    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

    Al-Ebraheem, A., Dao, E., Desouza, E., Li, C., Wainman, B. C., McNeill, F. E., & Farquharson, M. J. (2015). Effect of sample preparation techniques on the concentrations and distributions of elements in biological tissues using? SRXRF: a comparative study. Physiological measurement, 36(3), N51.

    Mostafaei, F., McNeill, F. E., Chettle, D. R., & Noseworthy, M. D. (2014). 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, 36(1), N1.

    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

    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

    Ponomarenko, O., Gherase, M. R., LeBlanc, M. S., Kim, C. Y., Desouza, E. D., Farquharson, M. J., ... & Fleming, D. E. (2014). Synchrotron X-ray absorption spectroscopy analysis of arsenic chemical speciation in human nail clippings. Environmental Chemistry, 11(6), 632-643.

    Behinaein, S., Chettle, D. R., Egden, L. M., McNeill, F. E., Norman, G., Richard, N., & Stever, S. (2014). The estimation of the rates of lead exchange between body compartments of smelter employees. Environmental Science: Processes & Impacts, 16(7), 1705-1715.

    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

    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

    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

    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

    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

    Ahmad, S. B., McNeill, F. E., Byun, S. H., Prestwich, W. V., Mothersill, C., Seymour, C., ... & Fernandez, C. (2013). Ultra-Violet Light Emission from HPV-G Cells Irradiated with Low Let Radiation from 90Y; Consequences for Radiation Induced Bystander Effects. Dose-response, 11(4), dose-response.

    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

    MacDonald, B. L., Hancock, R. G. V., Cannon, A., McNeill, F., Reimer, R., & Pidruczny, A. (2013). Elemental analysis of ochre outcrops in southern British Columbia, Canada. Archaeometry, 55(6), 1020-1033.

    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

    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

    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

    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

    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

    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

    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

    Payne M, Egden L, Behinaein S, Chettle D, McNeill F and Webber C (2011) Bone Lead Measurement Can Fam Physician 56 (11) 1110-1111

    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

    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

  • Current Graduate Students

    Fahad Afzal, PhD (Medical Physics)

    Michelle Le, PhD (Radiation Biology)

    Michelle Lord, PhD (Medical Physics)

    Monique Stuive, MSc (Medical Physics)

    Tsz Wing Cheung, MSc (Medical Physics)

    Former Graduate Students

    Farshad Mostafaei, PhD (Medical Physics), 2014

    Elstan Desouza, PhD (Medical Physics), 2014

  • Teaching
McMaster University - Faculty of Science

Mailing Address

AN Bourns Building (ABB), Room 241
McMaster University

1280 Main Street West
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
L8S 4K1

Contact Information

Office Hours:
9:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.
Telephone Inquiries:
+1 (905) 525-9140 ext.24558
Email Inquiries:

McMaster University - Faculty of Science

Mailing Address

McMaster University
AN Bourns Building (ABB), Room 241
1280 Main Street West
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
L8S 4K1

Contact Information

Office Hours:
9:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.
Telephone Inquiries:
(905) 525-9140 ext. 24558
Email Inquiries: