CMPE open evening

Each year The Christie's Medical Physics department opens its doors to local schools and colleges in a bid to help students see the potential of their Physics studies

The 2016 event saw over 200 students and 20 staff from 15 schools and colleges invited behind the scenes at the hospital for a series of talks and demonstrations covering all areas of medical physics.

The next CMPE Open Evening: Wednesday 14th March 2018

Due to exceptionally high demand, and to ensure that all schools have the chance to bring students to this unique event, places will be limited to 15 per school

Schools will be notified approximately 2 weeks before booking opens, to allow time to speak to students and get an idea of numbers.

The speaker at the 2018 event is Dr Alan McWilliam. He is the research team lead for adaptive radiotherapy at the Christie Hospital and honourary lecturer in adaptive radiotherapy at the University of Manchester. Alan acts as the Christie’s international representative for an exciting new treatment machine recently installed at the Christie, the MR linac. Current work is focused on anatomical changes in patients during radiotherapy treatment and how this interacts with the strong magnetic field of the MR linac to ensure optimal plan quality. Other work is focused on big data analysis and he has been investigating the effect of radiation dose on the heart for patients treated for lung cancer.  This work was recently presented in the best of physics session at the conference by the American Society for Radiation Oncology (ASTRO).

The programme:

The department works hard to ensure that all areas of Medical Physics are represented, to give students a clear picture of the wide range of jobs available in this sector and where their physics studies can take them.

Our staff are on hand to answer any questions, and careers and future study advice is also provided by a number of guest organisations, such as local universities, and organisations such as the National School of Healthcare Science and theInstitute of Physics and Engineering in Medicine (IPEM).

The key speaker at the 2016 event was Professor Karen Kirkby. Professor Karen Kirkby is the lead for developing a programme of international leading proton research and innovation to deliver direct patient benefits. Karen is also Chair of National Proton Physics Research and Implementation Group and works both with the University of Manchester and The Christie Hospital.

Students also had three short talks and/or demonstrations from Christie staff, relating to the following areas of medical physics:

Linear Accelerators (Linac)

Linear accelerators use both photon and electron beams to treat the designated treatment areas of the patient whether these are surface areas or internal. How a Linear accelerator works and its role in patient treatment are also explained.


The ultrasound demonstration will cover both ultrasound physiotherapy equipment and diagnostic imaging systems. There will be examples of greyscale 2D imaging of the inside of a commercial ultrasound test object and pulsed wave Doppler and colour Doppler imaging using an in house dynamic string test object. Students will be given a basic introduction to how images are formed and be able to see 'inside' a number of ultrasound probes.

Magnetic resonance (MR)

MRI uses a strong magnetic field and radiofrequency energy to excite protons within the body. The magnetic properties of protons in different tissue types vary and so by exploiting these we can produce images demonstrating differences between certain tissues and between normal tissues and pathology. Due to the use of the strong magnetic field, there are a number of safety issues involved in MRI scanning. This demonstration explains how MRI works, what it is used for and how it can be employed safely.

Ultraviolet radiation & lasers

UV light can be used to treat a range of skin conditions but it is essential that the dose of light is carefully controlled. This demo concerns the treatments, the light sources and the role of physicists in devising ways to calibrate the equipment. The many uses of lasers in medicine will also be introduced.

Photodynamic Therapy

Photodynamic therapy utilises a special drug which does nothing on its own, and light which is not strong enough to do anything on its own. If these two apparently useless agents are combined in the right way, a potent cancer treatment results. This demonstration explains how photodynamic therapy works and how the treatment is used.

Radiation protection

This covers the history of radiation protection. The talk starts with the discovery of x-rays and ends with some examples of practical radiation protection in a diagnostic x-ray department. There is a brief summary of the legislations in place covering the use of radiation in a hospital.

Diagnostic radiology

This demo introduces the way in which x-rays are used to see the internal structures of the body. Physicists play an important role in ensuring that equipment is fit for purpose in terms of image quality and patient safety. The evolution of X-ray detectors will be covered and the types of tests performed by physicists introduced.

Nuclear medicine imaging

Nuclear medicine imaging utilises the radioactive decay process by using gamma emitting radionuclides for the diagnosis of disease. A radioactive drug is given to the patient and the resulting gamma rays are detected in order to create images showing functional processes within the body. This demonstration will explain the scientific processes involved, the equipment used, and examples of nuclear medicine images and their clinical significance.

Radionuclide therapy

An alternative treatment for cancers in certain cases is Targeted Radionuclide Therapy. This relies on a blend of biology and physics. Firstly a biological molecule that will specifically target a particular cancer cell is developed, and then a radionuclide or isotope is joined to the biological agent which will then deliver its radiation to the cancer cells. There are advantages to this type of treatment in that there is less radiation given to normal cells and patients often have fewer side effects. The other advantage is that tiny areas of cancer cells- too small to be treated by radiotherapy- can be targeted and all cancer cells within the patient are treated. However the patient is radioactive during this therapy and we have to take precautions to ensure this is done in safety.


Positron Emission Tomography (PET) imaging is a speciality of nuclear medicine that utilises radioactive decay by using positron emitting radionuclides for the diagnosis of disease. A radioactive drug is given to the patient and two coincident gamma rays created by the radioactive decay process are detected to create images showing functional processes within the body. This demonstration will explain the scientific processes involved, the equipment used, and examples of PET images and their clinical significance.

Medical engineering

Medical Engineering are responsible for a range of patient connected equipment, whether they are for providing therapy, e.g. administering chemotherapy drugs through a pump or an electric shock through a defibrillator, or for monitoring a patients wellbeing, e.g. blood pressure and temperature. This involves the maintenance and repair of medical equipment and its general management. The demonstration will include examples of such equipment.

If you would like any further information about Medical Physics Open Evenings, please email: