Medical Physics Registrar

Ana Snjegota enjoyed physics from the moment she was first introduced to it in high school.

Career: Medical Physics Registrar, Radiation Oncology Department, Auckland City Hospital.
Programme: Bachelor of Science majoring in Physics and Mathematics, Bachelor of Science (Honours) majoring in Physics, Master of Science majoring in Physics.

“As a child, I was fascinated by the stars and I knew I wanted to study physics because of my interest in astronomy and astrophysics,” she says. “I also knew I would eventually work in a field related to my studies.”

At the end of her first year, she realised that she had enough first year maths papers to pursue a second major in mathematics.

“I figured the maths degree would help me in my physics courses, and it did,” she says.

“As I went through my degree, I liked the flexibility of the courses I could take. I could really focus on studying the topics I enjoyed the most. I found a new love for nuclear and particle physics, which eventually led me to radiation physics and medical physics in radiation oncology.”

Ana pursued first an honours then a masters degree in Physics. At each level the research projects she did were not related to each other as she was still trying to work out what field of physics she really wanted to get into.

She says there is plenty of opportunity to develop research or teaching skills, and to get more involved in the department – either through scholarship opportunities, physics outreach opportunities or applying to be a teaching assistant or a lab demonstrator.

“The Department of Physics has a friendly environment, with approachable lecturers and a positive atmosphere. Everyone I ever talked to was always very helpful, encouraging and made me feel welcome,” she says.

At the end of her Masters year, Ana applied for a Medical Physics training programme through Auckland City Hospital. She was accepted and has been working as a Medical Physics Registrar in the radiation oncology department of the hospital.

Being a registrar is part of the training programme that provides the qualification to become a Medical Physicist.

“The job incorporates everything related to Radiation Oncology Medical Physics,” she explains.

“It includes learning the theory behind radiation physics and how we can use radiation to treat cancer, learning about radiation safety and protection to ensure radiotherapy is safe for everyone involved and performing quality assurance tests on the medical linear accelerators used for radiotherapy.”

Everything in Ana’s job is related to physics, and she says she uses the critical thinking and problem solving skills she developed during her postgraduate degrees almost daily. (Ana obtained a second postgraduate qualification, a Postgraduate Diploma in Science (Medical Physics) from the University of Canterbury.)

“Every day at work is slightly different and I am always learning something new. I enjoy the fact my work is directly related to what I studied,” she says.

Ana received two scholarships during her time at the University of Auckland. One was a Summer Research Scholarship and the other an externally funded scholarship offered through the Department of Physics.

“Both scholarships helped me tremendously. They were each 10 weeks long and allowed me to gain additional research, presentation and report writing skills.

“The scholarships also helped broaden my network of colleagues and connections in the field. One of my physics supervisors was my reference for my job interview!”

Ana has ample advice for those considering studying physics:

  • Don’t feel like you have to decide at the beginning of your first year what you want to do when you graduate. You will learn new things and find new areas of interest as you progress through your degree.
  • No matter what you end up doing after you graduate, you will use the skills you gain from studying physics. It is such a broad subject that you learn more than just theory and calculations and can find yourself in many different fields of active research.
  • Get to know your fellow students and lecturers and take advantage of any opportunities to challenge yourself and develop more skills. Whether that opportunity is applying for a teaching assistant position or applying for a scholarship - give it a go when the opportunity presents itself!