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News > Science, Technology & Medicine > Medicine & Health > "A Tonbridge bursary meant great teachers nurtured my love for science and computing"

"A Tonbridge bursary meant great teachers nurtured my love for science and computing"

Neuro-oncologist Dr Rajesh Jena (Sc 84-89), who is pioneering the use of AI in radiotherapy, talks about the school subjects he loved, the teachers who inspired him and their influence on his career
Dr Rajesh Jena (Sc 84-89)
Dr Rajesh Jena (Sc 84-89)

Dr Raj Jena is a consultant neuro-oncologist at Addenbrooke’s University Hospital in Cambridge, providing radiotherapy and drug treatments for patients with tumours of the brain and spine.

He recently led an eight-year research project between Addenbrooke’s, the University of Cambridge and Microsoft Research which successfully trained computers to perform, in just a few minutes, painstaking tasks that would take clinicians many hours.

These ground-breaking software tools have been released as open source code, so that this Artificial Intelligence can be used to help clinicians with complex, but routine, tasks which direct radiation to the tumour whilst shielding healthy tissue. This will allow patients to start lifesaving radiotherapy treatment more quickly and clinicians to focus more time on caring for their patients.

Dr Jena credits Tonbridge teachers David ‘DC’ Sanders and Mike Clugston for nurturing his love of Physics, Chemistry and Computing at school which influenced his career, once his medical training was complete.

“I am immensely grateful that the bursary enabled me to meet, and learn from, people like David and Mike,” Dr Jena explains. “They became seminal figures in my life and enabled me to do what I do today.”

Dr Jena entered Tonbridge in 1984 through the scholarship programme and was supported by a 55% bursary. His father was a sole practice GP, with three children and as Dr Jena explains: “he would not have been able to support me through school without the bursary. I remember sitting with him as he completed the school entry form. He calculated that 50% was the minimum scholarship that would allow me to attend school, and that weighed heavily on my mind until the letter arrived from Tonbridge offering us 55% - that was a huge relief!”

Dr Jena describes how Tonbridge prepared him to study Medicine at Cambridge and gave him a great start in a career as an academic neuro-oncologist. But it was the love of Physics, Chemistry and Computing that had been nurtured at school, which really made a difference, once his medical training was complete.

After qualifying as a consultant oncologist, Dr Jena collaborated with particle physicists to design medical research programmes at the European Centre for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Geneva and developed therapeutic nanoparticles that can attack brain tumours at the molecular level.

The announcement of the results of the joint project with Microsoft Research to develop Artificial Intelligence algorithms for cancer imaging, is Dr Jena’s latest achievement. To watch a video about this pioneering project, click below:  


Speaking about Tonbridge School’s campaign to raise more funds for bursaries, and as a bursary recipient himself, Dr Jena concludes: “To me, the bursary campaign is a great way to invest in the school and invest in our collective future. It offers young minds an opportunity to make the very best of the unique opportunities that Tonbridge has to offer, regardless of their own background.”

(Sc 84-89)

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