Marcus says that people who suffer cancers in certain parts of the body, such as the uterus, pancreas, or liver, may especially benefit from radiation treatment with an MR-Linac. “It’s quite hard to see soft tissue structures on an x-ray image. On an MRI image, soft tissue structures such as the pancreas, uterus or liver are highlighted really well. On an x-ray image, tumours within them would have been nearly invisible.”
Marcus also focused his PhD research on improving some of the treatment processes using the MR-Linac machine. “During the radiotherapy, the irradiation of air particles gives off electrons, and those electrons spiral in the magnetic field and hit protruding surfaces.”
Some of these spiralling contaminant electrons could penetrate the patient’s skin and potentially create tumours. Marcus's research investigated a useful solution, utilising patches of gelatine to protect patients from stray electrons.
“It's essentially just jelly. So, you make up a patch of gelatine, about one to two centimetres thick. The electrons will interact with that jelly, and the patient is protected,” Marcus says.
Working with the radiotherapy team in Townsville
Marcus finished his PhD in 2022, and he is now assisting in the operation of the MR-Linac full-time. He works with his colleagues in the radiotherapy team to make sure that patients of the Townsville Cancer Centre receive the best possible cancer treatment and can recover as soon as possible.
Marcus says that even though many people may think that physics is very theoretical, jobs like his prove that physics can be a very hands-on field that involves working with many people.
Physicists are problem-solvers
Outside of medical physics, Marcus says, physics graduates have a diverse range of opportunities to find meaningful work around North Queensland. “What employers are looking for is the problem-solving and critical thinking skills that you gain in a Physics degree. You could work in the mining industry or in geophysics or meteorology, for instance,” he says.
Marcus says he was happy that he could study Physics in Townsville. “Physics at JCU certainly was the right choice for me. I had absolutely fantastic lecturers and supervisors along the way,” he says. “The Physics and Mathematics staff are very approachable. If it weren’t for them, I wouldn't be in the position that I'm in right now.”
He says that many of his colleagues at the Townsville University Hospital have studied at JCU. Being around the right kind of people might be another reason why someone might want to study physics, he says. “The people here, they are just brilliant and very passionate. So, if you enjoy physics, you'll have a great time working in this field.”