Sarah De Vos
Atheneum Wispelberg (Belgium): 1992 – 1998
The Open University – Physics: 2010 – 2014; The University of Liverpool: 2015 – 2018.
I was a landscape planner in a previous life but that’s a whole other story! Also worked in Pizza Hut for a while, with a boss called Mario :)
Trainee Medical Physicist
The Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen University Hospitals NHS Trust
Favourite thing to do in my job: I like being challenged constantly and knowing that the field I work in helps make people’s lives better.
I love adventure, physics and travel!
I am passionate about travel so like to go abroad whenever possible! My plan B would be to become a scuba diving instructor somewhere in Thailand 🙂
My all time favourite food is Belgian fries the way my nan makes them, and late night cheese and pickle sandwiches. When I’m not working or travelling I like to go hiking, play board games, or Tomb Raider.
I am a baby (trainee!) Medical Physicist
I’m currently still training, on the NHS’s STP scheme, which you may have heard about. It’s a 3 year long scheme and I will be exactly halfway next month (party time!).
I am specialising in radiotherapy physics and have 3 main rotations:
Machines, which is where I learn all about the linear accelerators we use at our hospitals to kill cancer, and also the quality assurance we need to do on them. Quality assurance may sound a bit boring but it’s really not, honestly! We have to do tons of tests to ensure that the machines (we call linear accelerators, or linacs for short) give the right amount of radiation as any mistakes there can be very dangerous for our patients.
Treatment planning, where I will be taught how to make treatment plans which specify the amount of radiation a patient will receive, and the x-ray beam configuration needed, and so on. These plans get checked several times (again for safety reasons!) and then the linacs use these to deliver the radiation to the patients.
Brachytherapy, this is a type of radiotherapy treatment whereby a radioactive pellet (the size of a grain of rice) is brought directly into the patient, or very near to the patient, for a certain amount of time. The doctor and physicist decide together which treatment (linac or brachy) is suitable for each patient.
When I finish my training I will probably be involved in all 3 of the above rotations, as well as research. The variety is definitely a great perk!
My Typical Day
There is no real typical day!
As I am training at the moment I spend about half of my time observing things in the department, whether that is treatments being carried out or tests being performed on the machines, and the other half writing up what I have seen.
Once I’m not a trainee anymore I could be either spending my time doing a lot of tests (and recording + analysing the results), or creating/checking treatment plans, or I could be on the physics helpdesk (the first port of call for any ‘physicsy’ problems in the department), or I could be doing research, or training future physicists, etc.
There is no real typical day, and it’s never boring!
What I'd do with the prize money
Hands-on radiotherapy physics props to take to schools and events.
We have a health care science week coming up in our department, which we use to tell people visiting the hospital about what a medical physicist does. Whilst preparing for this we realised that we could do with some more props, to make it all a bit more exciting! After all, there are only so many posters people want to read.
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
Adventurous, happy, scientist
What's the best thing you've done in your career?
Don’t laugh but I love pushing buttons
What or who inspired you to follow your career?
My nan, an incredibly independent and intelligent woman born in the wrong time
Were you ever in trouble at school?
Playing cards in class but in my defence it was the last day before the summer holiday
If you weren't doing this job, what would you choose instead?
Scuba diving instructor
Who is your favourite singer or band?
What's your favourite food?
Belgian fries with tartare
What is the most fun thing you've done?
Scuba diving, with skydiving a close second
If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!
I’d want to 1) be more intelligent (Einstein level) 2) be a mermaid (Splash is one of my favourite childhood films) and 3) have a wardrobe that leads to Narnia. Not compatible with number 2) but either will do.
Tell us a joke.
A man is in the cinema when a sheep sits down next to him. ‘What is a sheep doing in the cinema?!’ the man asks, surprised. ‘Well’ says the sheep ‘I liked the book’.