Photo:

Thomas Biggans

Runner up after a fun two weeks, thank you all!

Favourite Thing: Finding out something that nobody else knows particularly how illnesses affect how our bodies work

My CV

Education:

St Joseph’s College, Dumfries 04-10; University of Aberdeen 2010-2014; Queen’s University, Canada 11-12; University of Aberdeen 2014-2015

Qualifications:

MSc Medical Physics; BSc (Hons) Physics; Scottish Baccalaureate in Science; Scottish Advanced Highers; Scottish Highers; Scottish Standard Grades

Work History:

Sales Associate, TK Maxx 2009-2014

Current Job:

Medical Physicist

Employer:

NHS Grampian

About Me

I like to find out things and then tell other people about them

Originally from Dumfries in the South West of Scotland I currently live with my fiance in Aberdeen. Outside of work I’m an avid user of Netflix and enjoy the occasional visit to the theatre. I’m a big fan of tennis so become difficult to find every summer when Wimbledon is on. I volunteer with the Institute of Physics and STEMnet to try and engage people of all ages in physics and in particular raise awareness of physicist’s roles in healthcare behind the scenes.

My Work

I work in Nuclear Medicine which uses radioactive substances to study how our bodies work. We look at patients’ hearts beating, their stomachs eating and their brains thinking so that we know if something is not working like it should.

While radiation can be dangerous we have found some really good uses for it such as Nuclear Medicine. We attach radioactive sources (something that gives off radiation) to a wide range of drugs, different drugs are processed by the body in different ways so by following the radiation we can see how the drug is being processed and so can judge if that process is working as it should. For example we inject the patient with a radioactive drug which is filtered by the kidneys and then passes into the bladder. If everything is normal then the drug will go into the kidneys and then come out but if there is a blockage then the drug will go into the kidney and then get stuck which we can see on our images.

We detect where the radiation is by using a device called a gamma camera which essentially takes a picture of all the radiation so areas with more of the radioactive drug show up brighter in the picture and areas with none of the drug are dark. As a physicist I make sure that the gamma camera is working correctly so we can be confident that the picture we get is a good one and determine how to make it better if the picture is bad. I also conduct research on new methods of creating that picture and study what conclusions we can come to from our images

My Typical Day

Checking that all the equipment is working correctly, looking at clinical images and working on research projects

We test our equipment regularly so we spot any problems before we use the camera for patient studies, these tests are quality controls (QC) which together provide our quality assurance (QA). Generally tests involve placing a radioactive source in front of the camera, taking an image and then judging if our image is the same as what we would expect to get. The majority of the time you don’t get an image that is exactly the same but is very close. If the image is close enough to be acceptable we say it is within tolerance. Physicists determine these tolerances by judging how big an effect the thing we are testing will have on the doctor’s decision about the patient.

I also carry out research which can take many different forms. Research is usually about trying to find a solution to a particular problem but some times it is an investigation of an unexpected result. An unexpected result suggests that we don’t fully understand the science and we need to learn more so we conduct research experiments designed to give us more information. If we discover something new then we tell other scientists about it by publishing our work or giving presentations.

What I'd do with the money

I’d like to develop a working model to demonstrate how Nuclear Medicine works at outreach events

Nuclear Medicine often has to just be described to people and I would like to create something that is a bit more visual and hands on. Essentially I’d like to build an anatomical model that includes some tubing so participants in outreach events can inject the model with a coloured liquid where the colour represents our radioactive drug. The liquid would pass around the model and through the heart. As it goes through the heart the colour is taken out of the liquid and left in the heart which represents how our heart scans work where the radioactive drug becomes stuck in the heart muscle that is working. This could be adapted for different exams.

My Interview

How would you describe yourself in 3 words?

Enthusiastic, Friendly, Determined

Who is your favourite singer or band?

Ed Sheeran

What's your favourite food?

Sweet and Sour Chicken Cantonese Style

What is the most fun thing you've done?

International exchange during my 2nd year of uni, got to meet a lot of people from all over the world and travel to some well-known and other less well-known places.

What did you want to be after you left school?

I wasn’t sure, Studying physics left a lot of options for me so I didn’t have to choose until later

Were you ever in trouble at school?

A little bit sometimes, talking in class, ignoring the “one way system” in the corridor, nothing major

What was your favourite subject at school?

Physics

What's the best thing you've done as a scientist?

I found a solution to a problem we were having with our images which means we don’t have to repeat scans anymore saving time, money and most importantly radiation dose to the patient

What or who inspired you to become a scientist?

Curiosity, I like to know how things work from your bike to your smart phone to the way the sun moves, science tells you how everything works the way it does

If you weren't a scientist, what would you be?

A Pilot

If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!

I wish 1) I could read faster as I’m quite slow at the moment 2) I was a better chef I usually cheat and use pre-made sauces 3) I was a bit more decisive although in science it’s good to keep an open mind

Tell us a joke.

What do you call an alligator in a vest? An investigator

Other stuff

Work photos:

Alot of my work has used our PET-CT Scanner. The CT part is at the front where the bed (which we call the couch) is and the PET part is at the back of the scanner.

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We do the CT first by sending out x-rays from the black circle you can see at the front then we do the PET which detects the gamma rays coming from the patient and hitting the white band at the back.

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So by using this one scanner we can get the CT on the left, the PET in the centre and the two put together on the right. Do you know what the bright yellow area is?

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Some of my recent research has been on small objects in PET-CT. For this I’ve been using a phantom which is what we call an object we are using in the place of an actual person.

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From left to right are different methods of building our picture from the data that the scanner has provided so all the pictures in one row are made from the same scan. From top to bottom I decreased the contrast between the small objects and the background. Contrast is the difference in the amount of radiation being emitted in the small object and the background volume.

Do you notice that on the bottom the smallest object is dark but at the top it is bright? So we need to have the right amount radiation to see what we want to see

Do you also notice how different the picture on the left of a row looks to the picture on the right? So the way we make up our picture can make a big difference to what we see

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To share what I’ve learnt with others I made a poster and presented at events

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One of the new things I’ve been working on is matching PET images with MRI images. This is useful because you can see more detail in a MRI than you can on a CT.

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