NTU nurtures STEM talent like medical physicist Alisha Coates

NTU nurtures STEM talent like medical physicist Alisha Coates

 April 19, 2023

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Nottingham Trent University (NTU) is one of the largest and most influential higher education institutions in the UK. A university that is committed to driving forward meaningful change, NTU has received a wide range of prestigious awards for research, dynamism and innovation. This academic excellence produces impressive female alumna who go on to work in outstanding careers.

Meet NTU alumna Alisha Coates who has an exciting role as a Nuclear Medicine and PET/CT Physicist, in which she uses Physics to benefit patients.

Alisha shares her experiences of studying at NTU and her career highlights working in the field of Medical Physics.

Inspired by her passionate lecturers 

Alisha has many treasured memories from studying at NTU thanks to her "fantastic" lecturers who made what people might consider a "dull" subject interesting and entertaining. 

"They had a genuine passion for the subject which was passed onto the students," says Alisha.

Making life-long friends from her course

Alisha also made long-life friends from the course with whom she is still in touch today, and was part of the NTU Dance team, to which she performed at varsity in front of thousands of people, which Alisha describes as "incredibly fun." 

"Trent ended up winning in the game!" adds Alisha.

Learning how to live and work independently

NTU also taught Alisha a lot about starting her professional career, for example, managing workloads, knowing the fundamentals of physics, and having the confidence to go into the working industry. University was also Alisha's first time living away from home on her own, and so she learned how to live independently and how to budget her finances. "Not spending too much in the students' union obviously," jokes Alisha.

Enjoying a varied career in nuclear medicine

Now, Alisha works in nuclear medicine in an NHS hospital, which uses small amounts of radioactive materials as tracers to diagnose or treat disease. Radiation is detected by a special type of camera called a “Gamma camera”. It provides visual information about the area of the body being imaged by looking at the pattern of tracer-uptake, often identifying abnormalities in the early stages.

"My role covers many areas, including testing of the cameras and equipment, ensuring the department is adhering to radiation safety legislation, implementation of methods for acquiring images, and carrying out research and development. I also work with therapies (for both benign and malignant treatment) which includes calculating the activity and assessment of radiation dose to the target and critical organs. One of my favorite things about my job is how varied each day is - no two days are the same!" says Alisha.

Making a difference to patients' lives

Alisha loves that her job uses science to help benefit patients for both diagnostic and therapeutic purposes. While not always directly involved with patient care, Alisha knows her work will have an effect.

"Healthcare scientists like physicists are involved in around 80% of clinical decisions! STEM is a constantly changing field with new research and technology being introduced all the time and I love the fact my job is so varied and every day is different and brings new challenges," comments Alisha.

Preparing for her career with NTU's support

Alisha's NTU degree gave her a great understanding of the principles of physics, something that she continuously uses in her current role every day. A module on Medical Imaging confirmed that this was an area of work that she'd enjoy, while a related BSc project/dissertation on x-ray imaging helped Alisha start her career.

"I learned a great effort of working independently and within a team, but also how to manage intense workloads which I have taken forward with me in my career," says Alisha.

Becoming a qualified Physicist in her field

While the biggest highlight of Alisha's career was becoming a qualified Physicist in the field, a personal one related to work was undertaking an optimization project looking at lowering the radiation dose for neonatal scans, whilst also maintaining a good image quality.

"It's always rewarding knowing you’re helping to reduce radiation exposures to babies!" explains Alisha.

Sharing her future career plans

Looking towards the future, Alisha wants to become a Medical Physics Expert in her field, a role that is a legal requirement, and perhaps undertake a PhD.

"Working on a research project keeps me motivated!" says Alisha.

Giving advice to her younger self

Finally, Alisha shares what she'd tell her younger self studying at NTU: "That there will be tough times but also fun times; however they will be some of the best times of your life so enjoy the moment! And don’t be too shy!" advises Alisha.

Work for a university that nurtures the next generation of STEM talent 

The women working for NTU are driven by a determination to make NTU a vibrant university of the future that tackles social injustice, values ideas, and creates amazingopportunities.

Be empowered to achieve great things at NTU through a rewarding academic career.

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