Runner up after a fun two weeks, thank you all!
St Joseph’s College, Dumfries 04-10; University of Aberdeen 2010-2014; Queen’s University, Canada 11-12; University of Aberdeen 2014-2015
MSc Medical Physics; BSc (Hons) Physics; Scottish Baccalaureate in Science; Scottish Advanced Highers; Scottish Highers; Scottish Standard Grades
Sales Associate, TK Maxx 2009-2014
Favourite thing to do in my job: Finding out something that nobody else knows particularly how illnesses affect how our bodies work
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.
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 prize 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.
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
Enthusiastic, Friendly, Determined
What's the best thing you've done in your career?
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 follow your career?
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
Were you ever in trouble at school?
A little bit sometimes, talking in class, ignoring the “one way system” in the corridor, nothing major
If you weren't doing this job, what would you choose instead?
Who is your favourite singer or band?
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.
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