Alumni profile: Cameron Koch

Photo of Cameron Koch
Physics alumnus Cameron Koch (BSc ‘68, MSc ’69, PhD ’72) has left a permanent impression on the University of Waterloo—literally.

During a digital electronics course he started (the topic of the day being how to make a digital timer that counted down from 10), and using parts obtained from some friends from engineering, a slow-moving rocket was hidden behind the timer for a class demonstration - set to go off when the timer reached '0'.  Unfortunately, the speed of his rocket was substantially 'enhanced' by a jam in its nozzle.

The rocket took off, crashed into the window sill, bounced off and landed in the trash can.

Imagining that this was planned, all the students erupted in applause, Cameron says with a laugh. There’s still a dent in the window sill where the rocket had crashed.

Of course Cameron is known for more than just his rocket crash. He currently directs the Hypoxia Imaging Service Center at the University of Pennsylvania, where he is also a professor of radiation oncology, and is an active researcher and author in the field of radiation biology.  With many contributions to his field, it comes to no one’s surprise (except Cameron's) that he is a 2010 Distinguished Alumni Recipient.

I was very surprised to be nominated and shocked to learn that I was a recipient, Cameron says.

Cameron has dedicated his entire career to the study of radiation biology, thanks to the influence of his PhD supervisor Jack Kruuv.

I owe a lot to Jack, who has been the inspiration of everything I’ve done, he says. To this day, I continue to use the skills I learned in physics and electronics at Waterloo in my career.

Today Cameron’s research focuses on the detection and elimination of treatment resistant cancers caused by low oxygen levels (hypoxia) arising from insufficient tumour blood supply.

Our team’s overall goal is to quantify the distributions of oxygen in tumors which is also relevant for normal tissues under 'attack' by other diseases, Cameron says. We are also hoping to design better clinical trials and more targeted therapies directed against tumour hypoxia.

Though his career has taken him beyond the walls of Waterloo, the university is never far from Cameron’s mind.

Waterloo is an incredible institution and I’m very proud to be an alumnus.