Case study

Health physicist — Madeleine Lees

Madeleine enjoys always learning in her job and being part of a close-knit community with other health physicists

How did you get your job?

While completing my final year at university, I decided that I wanted to work within the nuclear industry. I applied for various jobs and was fortunate enough to be invited along to Babcock International at Devonport Royal Dockyard for an interview, where I was successful.

How relevant is your degree to your job?

To be a health physicist, you need a degree in a science subject so my Masters in physics, from The University of Manchester, was relevant.

Other successful candidates have degrees in chemistry and environmental science.

What are your main work activities?

My work is varied. One day I may be delivering training on radiation science, the next using state of the art equipment, such as the Whole Body Monitor. The next day I may need to go onboard a submarine to assess the radiological risks associated with a task.

I also get opportunities to go to conferences and benchmarking visits across the nuclear industry.

How has your role developed and what are your career ambitions?

When I joined as a graduate, I had no idea where I wanted to end up within the field of health physics. I completed a two-year graduate scheme where I learned all about the field and tried to decide where I wanted to work.

Since joining I have completed my first role, where I was the lead author for the radiological protection aspects of a safety case for the refit and refuel of HMS Vanguard.

I have also been given the opportunity to undertake postgraduate study at HMS Sultan. I have almost completed the Nuclear Radiation Protection Course, which is accredited by Cranfield University.

What do you enjoy about your job?

I am always learning. Also there are not many health physicists across the industry and it therefore creates a very close-knit community.

We often get to meet up at events, such as conferences and meetings run by the Society for Radiological Protection, which creates some great friendships.

What are the most challenging parts of your job?

Health physics is not just about technical expertise. I need to effectively engage with a range of stakeholders (including technical specialists, industrial workers, senior managers and the general public) in order to secure their buy-in and support to effectively manage radiological hazards.

This is not something you can simply learn at university or on a course, but something you have to learn on the job.

Any words of advice for someone who wants to get into this job?

Join the Society for Radiological Protection as a student member. They will then send you copies of the journal so you can keep up to date with modern practices.

They will also send out invitations for conferences where you can come and meet a variety of people from across the industry.

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