Matthew – Head of Radiology Physics

If you have an interest in technology and science, would like to work in a hospital department, and are generally interested in how things work then read on. Maybe your future career could be in radiology physics.

What attracted you to this job?

I have always been interested in technology and science. I always liked the applied side of any subject and the medical sector is very applied.

What does your typical day involve?

My days can be quite varied. I may be commissioning expensive X-ray equipment or facilities within a hospital, dealing with a radiation incident, developing a research study or advising on how best to image patients at low radiation doses.

What gives you the most job satisfaction?

I like to complete projects in whatever form. A while back I was part of a team that installed a digital archive system for X-ray images. We had to work out how to ensure 500k images per year could be stored and available all round the hospital including in theatres, wards and A&E.

What do your friends and family think about your job?

My wife thinks physics is boring and doesn’t care how things work but I have to know what makes them tick even if I can’t put them back together again. My sister also did a Physics degree and my brother is an underwater sonar communications engineer so they understand.

Tell us more about your environment in terms of work-life balance.

I try to keep my work and home life balanced as much as possible especially as I have two young children, but my employer (NHS) is very enlightened and helps a great deal with flexible working. I would like to have more time for both work and play but I do have to sleep!

How did you get to where you are today?

I had no idea what I wanted to do until I did a medical physics module as part of my undergraduate physics degree. We had a tour of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham and from then on I tried to get a graduate trainee post in medical physics. To improve my chances I did a masters (MSc) in applied radiation physics. I then took a job at Nottingham where the people were very excited to get their first trainee. They really looked after me and I really enjoyed the training. The rest as they say is history!

What advice would you give to someone thinking of following your path?

I would suggest that they go and see what the job entails by doing a project with an employer, perhaps as a work experience placement. This will help you understand what the role and employer is like and may lead to a job or perhaps help with getting one at the end. You spend a great deal of time at work so it is worth the investment to find a career you enjoy.

How well is your job compensated? What is the starting salary for someone in your field, and how much can this be expected to rise?

Our graduate trainees start on about £21k rising to £31k when qualified after 3 years. The head of a medical physics department could earn up to £97k.

What kind of hobbies or extracurricular activities do you do to relax?

I play squash to keep fit and get rid of any stress. I enjoy woodworking though I was never very practical at school and was even banned from metalwork for unsafe working.

Have there been any embarrassing moments?

The first time I took a trainee to test an X-ray set the generator exploded due to a short circuit at 60 thousand volts and big orange sparks flew across the room. I don’t think she thought I knew what I was doing.