Unlike oil spills, radiation 'spills' can't be seen. But it's important to know where they are and their size. Enter Nicole, health physicist. It's her job to monitor radiation levels at sites where radiation is used and people may be exposed due to their occupations.
Job description: Measures radiation levels at hospitals, mine sites, production plants to protect people against harmful exposure; calibrates and sells radiation monitors; presents lectures.
Subjects studied: English, Physics, Chemistry, Maths (Reasoning and Data), Maths (Change and Approximation) and Italian.
Further training: Nicole completed a Bachelor of Applied Physics at RMIT (4 years) and is a Qualified C9 Laboratory Technician (industry training, 5 years). Nicole is currently studying for a Bachelor of Applied Chemistry at Victoria University of Technology.
Salary: $30,000+ a year.
Radiation isn't always where you expect it to be. Drilling for oil can cause the release of naturally-occurring radioactive materials from under the seabed-it can create elevated radiation levels for workers on the rig. Hospitals use radiation for treating cancers, and nuclear reactors use the energy stored in atoms to generate electricity.
For safety reasons, knowing radiation levels is critical. That's where Nicole comes in. She's a health physicist, and her job is to see that accidental contamination of people or their work environment doesn't happen. She also knows the procedures for coping with a spill if safety procedures are breached.
"People get scared about radiation and expect me to glow in the dark and have kids with three heads. They don't realise that radiation is all around us. We teach people to work with it safely and we have to be extra safe ourselves."
Staff routinely wear radiation monitors to measure their own exposure to radiation. If the levels become too high, they have to be compared to international radiation limits to ensure that no one is over exposed.
- Enjoy science
- Able to work accurately
- Able to work as part of a team
- Enjoy helping people
Find out more about a career as a health physicist:
Australian Institute of Radiography (Federal Office)
PO Box 1169 Collingwood, VIC 3066
Tel: (03) 9419 3336
Find out more about this career path at myfuture.edu.au (Note: free registration is required to access the myfuture site).