Ready for some questions!
1999-2006 The Becket Comprehensive in Nottingham, 2006-2009 Oxford University and 2009-11 University College London
GCSEs, A-levels, a BA degree in physics and an MSc in medical physics, state registration as a Clinical Scientist
Oxford and Nottingham
I’m officially a Clinical Scientist, but in particular a Radiotherapy Physicist
Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust (The NHS)
Favourite thing to do in my job: Doing any experiment where the results agree with the theory – it’s very satisfying when science can predict what will happen and you can confirm it yourself (It’s much less satisfying when you can’t explain your results!)
I work in a hospital, curing people by firing radiation from multi million-pound machines to zap their cancer
In radiotherapy, the job of a Clinical Scientist is to ensure that the treatment prescribed by the patient’s doctor (a Clinical Oncologist) is as good as it can be. Apart from in a few special cases we don’t actually treat the patient, that’s the job of a Radiographer, but we’re involved in everything in between. For example:
Planning the treatments so the correct amount of radiation goes to the cancer, but carefully avoids all the other bits of your body
Checking the machines that deliver radiation (‘linacs’) which cost £1-2 million pounds are actually working as they should
Maintaining all the different computer systems in the department
Introducing newer techniques to do step 1 even better!
There’s lots more – message me if you want even more details!
My Typical Day
Calibrating machines, planning treatments, troubleshooting problems and drinking tea
Radiotherapy is a very precise branch of medicine, which is important as using too little radiation will mean a cancer isn’t properly treated and the patient may not be cured, but giving too much may harm the patient in other ways. A lot of my time in radiotherapy is spent working out the best way to treat a particular cancer. We do this by using computer simulation software to try different ways of using the linac, using the CT scan we have of a patient.
Follow the link and have a go yourself! Click on radiotherapy and see if you can treat the patient successfully (don’t worry if you don’t get it right first time, this is exactly how we develop our plans for real) http://www.insidestory.iop.org/insidestory_flash1.html
We have a huge number of different checks that we do on the machines used in radiotherapy (‘linacs’), and they have to be done in a way that minimises the impact on the patient, so we do some checks in the morning before treatments begin. As an example, As an example, we quite often have earlyish starts (7:30-8) to check the calibration of one of our machines. This involves measuring the amount of radiation produced by the machine to very high precision, and changing it if needed.
Much, much more!
What I'd do with the prize money
Set up a website/blog and hopefully an interactive game to help demonstrate what scientists in hospitals do…
It’s important to know what scientists in hospitals do day to day, because it’s interesting, and the public pay for it with their taxes, and to get more people involved.
I haven’t been able to find any examples describing typical work of medical physicists for the general public, so I’d like to set up a blog to do just that! Getting the domain registered and making it look professional will cost a bit (and I’ll need to work on my web editing skills!), but I’d also like to help fund an interactive game that a colleague recently suggested to be on the website, or at least accessible online somewhere.
This would be a bit like the game in the link above, but on a much smaller scale, so would demonstrate how radiation kills cancer on the level of individual cells.
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
Spiky-haired, nerdy and hungry
What's the best thing you've done in your career?
The project for my master’s degree looked at reducing the amount of radiation going to the heart during breast cancer treatment. Presenting the results at a national conference was pretty good!
What or who inspired you to follow your career?
Wanting to know the answer to the question “why?”
Were you ever in trouble at school?
Yes, for talking pretty much non-stop
If you weren't doing this job, what would you choose instead?
Something outdoors! Or maybe a computer programmer. Possibly both.
Who is your favourite singer or band?
Mumford & Sons
What's your favourite food?
Sausage rolls, pork pie – basically any pork-based savoury foodstuff
What is the most fun thing you've done?
Probably doing a loop-the-loop in a glider, just the right amount of scary too.
If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!
Be able to travel the world, and also travel to space, and become an elite table tennis player. (In fact table tennis in space would be cool)
Tell us a joke.
A neutron walks into a bar and asks for a pint of beer. When he asks how much, the bartender replies “For you, no charge”!