Caitlin O’Brien – A Career in Medical Physics

Pick up my UCAS personal statement today and you’d be forgiven for thinking I’d booked a flight to CERN and was halfway to a career in particle physics. Instead, when I arrived at Nottingham to study Physics, the breadth of topics available and the freedom and flexibility of my course opened my eyes to opportunities I had never really considered, or even knew existed. A combination of an excellent department, enthusiastic lecturers and career opportunities, eventually lead me into medical physics.

As graduation approached I had two main options: train with the NHS for 3 years to become a qualified medical physicist, or take up a fully funded PhD in Biomedical Imaging at Oxford University. I decided on the latter, although I have many friends who opted to go down NHS route.

I’m still surprised by how little people know about medical physics as I am reminded every day of the large and direct impact it has on peoples’ lives. Medical physics is the basis of any technique we use to image the human body such as ultrasound, MRI or X-ray, as well as playing a crucial role in drug development, cancer treatment and understanding mental health, to name but a few. So far in my short 3 years of studying medical physics I’ve worked on projects involving Osteoporosis, Schizophrenia, Epilepsy and Cardiovascular disease. My current project involves trying to measure oxygen uptake in the brain using MRI, with the aim of improving treatment planning and outcome of stroke patients. We’ve recently had the go-ahead to scan our first NHS patient which is incredibly exciting.

I’m not sure if my future lies in academia but if reading my personal statement has taught me anything it’s that you can never predict the opportunities that are going to come your way or where you’re going to end up.