Marc F. Desrosiers, a research chemist at the National Institute of Standards and Technology since 1986, received his B.S. in chemistry from Boston College in 1978, and his Ph.D. in inorganic chemistry from the University of California at Santa Barbara in 1983. Dr. Desrosiers was a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois from 1984-86 and a Research Associate with the University of Maryland, Baltimore from 1986-1988. As a member of the Ionizing Radiation Division (1989 to present), Dr. Desrosiers' research includes radiation metrology and the development of standards and services.
Research and Professional Activities
Dr. Desrosiers has built a program in industrial dosimetry based on electron paramagnetic resonance (EPR) dosimetry. The EPR dosimetry technique is based on the use of an EPR spectrometer to quantify the radiation-induced free radicals in irradiated materials. His efforts are focused in several areas that include fundamental EPR dosimetry research, industrial-dosimetry development, radiological research, documentary standards (both national and international), and international activities.
Dr. Desrosiers developed the NIST EPR dosimetry facility that comprises several state-of-the-art EPR spectrometers. NIST and NPL are the premier national metrology institutes that use EPR as a quantitative technique in ionizing radiation dosimetry. Dr. Desrosiers uses EPR measurements as a means of transfer dosimetry for ionizing radiation, that is, as a tool to precisely compare the concentrations of paramagnetic centers produced by radiation from a radiation source to be calibrated and those from the NIST source, whose dose rate has been accurately determined by water calorimetry (based on the NIST primary standard for absorbed dose in water). Small alanine pellets or alanine layers deposited thin film strips on are placed in the radiation beam; following irradiation, the signal, which is directly proportional to the number of produced free radicals, is read out on an EPR spectrometer. Dr. Desrosiers and his team have been systematically evaluating all of the factors affecting alanine-EPR response and all of the sources of possible inaccuracies of the method. Considerable effort has been spent on reducing the uncertainties of EPR spectrometry itself. A technique developed by Dr. Desrosiers’ team is the use of an in situ ruby standard that has enabled them to factor out measurement fluctuations from the electronic system and external influences, in order to achieve reproducibility that is unparalleled in EPR dosimetry. In addition, research from this team on the effects of irradiation temperature, storage humidity, and dose rate has brought this dosimetry system to a new level of understanding and accuracy.
Dr. Desrosiers and his team conceived of a new way to deliver NIST-traceable certification of radiation-processing. He has designed an Internet-based, on-demand, measurement service that allows a customer to request and perform a certified measurement, through instructions and NIST-software control of the on-site instrument. This service, which will operate 24/7 and can be accessed from anywhere in the world, will serve an industry under tight constraints and with plants in many countries. The system is detailed in a series of publications. Presently, the project is dormant due to resource shortfalls. However, when successfully deployed, this new e-Calibration service will represent an exciting new measurement approach by NIST in the information age.
After September 11, 2001, the entire country was concerned with terrorism and homeland security. Scientists at all government laboratories were considering how they could help. The next act of terrorism was the mailing of anthrax spores that started on October 17, 2001. The US government, through the White Office of Science and Technology (OSTP) needed a rapid but effective response to deal with quarantined mail in the Brentwood DC and Trenton NJ processing centers. From his expertise and experience with radiation-processing dosimetry and his support of the medical-device sterilization and food-irradiation industries, Dr. Desrosiers prepared complete explanations, procedures and contacts for irradiation of the mail. This won agreement throughout the federal-laboratory and national-laboratory network, the OSTP and the US Postal Service. Working with the Armed Forces Radiation research Institute (AFRRI) on the radiobiology and radiation effects, NIST was able to coordinate industrial irradiations of test mail carrying NIST dosimeters and AFRRI spore (surrogate spore of bacillus globigi) to validate the sanitizing process. It is important to note that this real-life test was done by November 1, 2001, within two weeks of the anthrax mailing, largely due to the diligence of Dr. Desrosiers and his team. His work has continued on this important multi-agency project, helping the industrial irradiators to optimize their process, increasing throughput while sparing the mail much of the radiation damage experienced at the beginning. This work includes the validation of new procedures (high-energy x-rays rather than direct electron-beam irradiation) for parcel irradiation and dose-modifying protocols, testing effects of such irradiation on forensic evidence, and effects on the archival quality of irradiated mail. During this time, Dr. Desrosiers worked with the Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation, a respected radiation-processing industry organization, to develop documentary standards and procedures for mail irradiation: Requirements for Validation and Routine Control and Ionizing Radiation Decontamination. The irradiation of mail continues for selected government agencies, as does NIST involvement.
Building on a background in organometallic mechanistic photochemistry and organic radiation chemistry, Dr. Desrosiers has a keen interest in mechanisms of radiation interactions with biochemical systems. Several early publications deal with EPR signal production in irradiated aqueous systems including EPR spin-trap techniques to stabilize/analyze short-lived free radicals. His major contributions in this area have been in the development of EPR/bone dosimetry as a method for post-irradiation detection of irradiated bone tissue. In published works that include Nature, his publications in the use of EPR for the detection of irradiated foods and for establishing dose to bone for radiation accident victims have established NIST leadership in these fields. The first successful application of EPR bone dosimetry for radiation accidents was achieved in a study of San Salvadorian radiation accident victims and then again for a detailed investigation of a radiation accident victim at an electron accelerator facility in Maryland. The latter work resulted in a cover article in the journal Health Physics. Dr. Desrosiers’ team was also the first to measure radiation dose to bone for a radiopharmaceutical injection of a bone-seeking agent being considered as a new bone-marrow ablation drug. Also, using spectrometers with spatial resolution at Hopkins, Dr. Desrosiers and colleagues have been able to measure radiation dose profiles in irradiated bone from cobalt‑60 gamma rays and medium-energy electrons. Research is underway to expand the current range (20 Gy to 200 kGy) of alanine dosimetry to include therapy level dosimetry (as low as 1 Gy) for small-field radiation treatment applications (e.g., TomoTherapy or GammaKnife).
Since 1989, Dr. Desrosiers has been a key organizer and editor of the series of international symposia on EPR dosimetry. In 1991 he organized and hosted the 3rd Symposium at NIST; in 1995 he was the chief editor of the 4th International Symposium. In 1993, he organized an international school on EPR dosimetry at the Elba International Physics Center in Italy. Dr. Desrosiers has served on several coordinated research committees for the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which have included: Detection Methods for Irradiated Foods; Radiation Inactivation of Bioterrorism Agents; and, Radiation Treatment of Biohazardous Contaminants. Dr. Desrosiers serves on a number of writing groups of the ASTM dealing with industrial radiation dosimetry. Dr. Desrosiers continues to serve as Co-Chairman of the ASTM working group that wrote the Standard Practice for Alanine/EPR Dosimetry, now in worldwide use by industrial facilities.
NIST internal positions held by Dr. Desrosiers include: Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) Coordinator for the Physics Laboratory (PL), Director of the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) Program underwritten by the NSF, and Senior Program Analyst in the NIST Director’s Program Office. In his duties as Director of the SURF Program, Dr. Desrosiers manages the SURF program that brings undergraduates in science curricula to work for a summer with NIST staff on scientific projects. Dr. Desrosiers grew this program from a small 20-student program who summered in the Physics Laboratory to a much larger (150+ student) program that now includes all scientific laboratories at NIST.
Dr. Desrosiers has written approximately 100 archival publications.
Department of Commerce Bronze Medal for creative research and development of Electron Paramagnetic Resonance dosimetry (1991).
NIST Equal Opportunity/Diversity Award (1999).
Arthur S. Flemming Award (2002) for developing alanine/EPR technology to the highest metrological quality for measuring the absorbed dose in ionizing-radiation processing.
Radiation Physics Division
NIST, 1989 - present
Ph.D., Chemistry, University of California at Santa Barbara, 1983