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 2019 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 the 25th of March 2020

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 1 month before booking opens, to allow time to speak to students and get an idea of numbers. If you are a teacher who would like your students to participate, please contact for further information.

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 local universities and organisations such as the National School of Healthcare Science and the Institute of Physics and Engineering in Medicine (IPEM).

Students will receive a talk from a keynote speaker, which shall demonstrate cutting edge research in a particular field. The keynote speaker at the 2019 event was Dr Laura Parkes. Dr Parkes is a senior lecturer at Manchester University with a background in functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and other MR imaging techniques.  One principal area of her research concerns the way the brain changes and forms connections. Following a New Investigators Award from the Medical Research Council in 2006 Laura continued to study the blood flow in the brain and has developed measurements of cerebral blood flow and oxygen metabolism in response to stimulation. Applications in ageing and cerebral small vessel disease are ongoing, with an aim to understand mechanisms of cognitive decline and dementia.

The keynote speaker at the 2020 event is to be confirmed. Watch this space!

Students also had three short talks and/or demonstrations from Christie staff, talks for this year are yet to be confirmed, but usually relate 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.

Radiotherapy Treatment Planning

The radiotherapy that is given to patients using a linac is highly customised. Radiotherapy treatment planning is the process of taking a patient’s images scan and customizing the beam arrangements, and shape of those beams in order to minimise the dose to healthy tissues, and give the prescribed dose to the tumour.

Radiotherapy Treatment

There are many steps in the process of a patient receiving their treatment, before they are treated, imaging is taken of the patient, which might involve x-rays, CT scans and MRI scans, which are used to create the patient’s treatment plan. We need to ensure that patients are in the same position at treatment as at scanning and so sometimes masks or moulds are made of the patient to hold them in the right place. The patient is then carefully set up for treatment where radiographers ensure that the treatment goes according to the plan.


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.

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. Non ionising radiation such as UV light and lasers are also used in healthcare.

Diagnostic radiology & Radiation Protection

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.


Brachytherapy is where small, sealed radioactive sources are placed as close to the tumour as possible. This can be done by placing the source on top of a skin lesion, by using needles to insert the source into deep tumours, or using cavities in the body (for example the airways in the lungs) to reach deep tumours. This demonstration will talk through the physics, safety and therapeutic principles in brachytherapy, as well as show some pieces of equipment used for brachytherapy


Medical Physics is constantly changing with many areas of research and innovation. Staff working with the Christie will talk about areas that they are researching. This includes the MR Linac – an image guided ratiotherapy machine that uses MR scans to allow adaptation of a patient’s treatment. It also includes Proton Therapy, a form of radiotherapy that uses protons rather than x-rays to treat cancer.

Training & Careers

Interested in a career as a Clinical Scientist? A talk will be available on the training scheme in the NHS.

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