For Connect Magazine, part of Christians in Science
One thing I often like to claim is “everything is physics”. Whether it’s the forces on your bones as you run or jump, the interference patterns of sound waves at a music festival or the polarising lenses of your favourite sunglasses, there’s really no getting away from the widespread and incredible impact of physics in our everyday lives. It was this that really drew me to the subject. It offers insight into the very fundamentals of our universe, and yet applies so relevantly to the here-and-now in which we live. It’s not all algebra and astronomy; I personally always wanted to use physics to help people. I’m Em, and I’m a trainee Clinical Scientist in medical physics. It’s a little-known profession, but is a great example of practical, tangible and life-changing physics which is happening in hospitals all around us every day. Clinical scientists come from a range of backgrounds and, though only forming 5% of the workforce, are involved in 80% of all clinical decisions in the NHS! You’ll find physicists in four broad areas:
X-ray, CT and Radiation Protection
Physicists help optimise image quality so diagnoses can be made quickly and effectively, while keeping patients, staff and visitors safe from the associated radiation.
That radioactive decay equation from GCSE physics is way more exciting when it’s helping you visualise the inner workings of the brain or kidneys in real-time.
Particle physics is absolutely crucial to the linear accelerators that deliver life-saving cancer therapy.
MRI and Ultrasound
Electromagnetism and quantum mechanics combine with a whole host of other scientific specialisms to produce the beautiful images we see in MRI. Even calculus is exciting when you use it to work out how to distinguish different areas of the brain. Promise.
Across all these areas, physicists are involved with maintaining the accuracy and quality of high-tech medical equipment, researching and developing new techniques and offering scientific support to clinical staff. It’s very tangible, and very rewarding to see the difference it makes to clinical practice and patients.
Personally, it’s a privilege to be able to use the science I love to contribute to the health of so many people through the NHS. As a follower of Jesus, I aim to show something of his love and compassion through my work in hospitals. He came to heal the sick, mend the broken and care for all people without discrimination.
“There are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone.” 1 Corinthians 12:4-6
Jesus also spoke about working together, like many parts of one body, using whatever talents God has given to you. I am certainly no doctor or nurse, but I love that I get to play my part in healing and caring for people by doing what I am good at- even when that’s physics! The best outcomes happen when we come together, look for our niche and work to our own God-given strengths.
Whatever your gifts, God will use them for good. There are so many jobs and opportunities out there, including ones that you might not have thought of. NHS clinical science extends to the life sciences, physiological sciences and bioinformatics, as well as clinical engineering and medical physics. If any kind of science is your thing, I hope I’ve shed a small amount of light on the potential to use it in the health sector; I can certainly recommend it.