Back to Meet the Professionals

Simon Atkins

Radiation Oncology Medical Physicist Registrar
Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, Melbourne

I’ve come a long way to get to this point in my career. From Tasmania to one of the world’s top 5 universities in London (via a tiny farm in country England), I’ve found my way to the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre in Melbourne. At school I liked most subjects, but I didn’t really love any of them. I gravitated to science subjects like biology, physics, maths and history (go figure?!) and I did pretty well, most of the time.  Off to university I went, not really knowing what I wanted to do – although a science degree found me, predominantly in physics, followed by an honours year in physics. During my time at university I picked up a casual job at the local hospital working in a Clinical Physics Department. It was an interesting job and way better than working at Macca’s! When I finished university off I flew from Tasmania and landed in the frosty United Kingdom (UK). There I had many jobs including a university hockey coach, market researcher, biomedical engineer, farm hand etc.  In London I worked in a large hospital which gave me the opportunity to study for a Masters in Radiation Physics at University College London. This degree then lead to a position as a Trainee Medical Physicist on the coveted National Health Service clinical scientist training scheme (in the UK).

When I was in high school I wasn’t exactly sure what I wanted to do. I first discovered Radiation Oncology when I was taken on a tour of a local Radiation Oncology department as a student. The mixture of science and medicine and the chance to help others really excited me.

What I like about being a Radiation Oncology professional is really a mixed bag.  You get a chance to work with a number of different professional groups (e.g. doctors, radiation therapists, nurses, engineers etc), the daily challenges continually keep you on your toes and the technology used to treat cancer is cutting edge and exciting.  The responsibility of the job is immense because you can’t take back radiation. It’s our job to ensure the patients get the best care and our colleagues are kept safe whilst treating our patients. 

I recommend Radiation Oncology as a career because it’s rewarding, interesting and a job that can take you places, that is, you can work all over the world. The money can be pretty good too.  You certainly need and eye for quality and the ability to carry out tasks with the upmost accuracy and precision. You definitely need a good feel for numbers. Some of the perks include flexible working hours and attending conferences in different countries.