Aps Careers | Physicist Profile

Christina Barrow

Medical Physicist

Why physics?

Tinkering to find out why

Christina Barrow was interested in math and science from an early age, entering her first science fair as a second grader.“ I was always tinkering around the house as a child, trying to figure out how and why things worked the way they did,” she says.

Electrical engineering is a good start

By the time she reached high school, her childhood hobby of tinkering had turned into a full-fledged passion for science. When her high school physics teacher noticed her aptitude and interest, he suggested that Christina pursue engineering. She took his advice and majored in electrical engineering.

Medical physics combines it all

After finishing her undergraduate degree, Christina worked in server development at Dell Computer Corporation for three years and then went on to accept a position in the biomedical engineering field.

At this point in her career, Christina realized that she wanted to use her science background to make a contribution to the medical field and work in patient care. She pursued graduate school to study medical physics, a field that combined her love for modern medicine, math, and physics.

Using physics

Math, computers, and thinking

Christina works as a medical physicist for the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) in Louisiana, where she is responsible for quality assurance of radiation treatments for cancer patients.

Quality control includes monitoring the integrity of the radiation delivery and measurement equipment, performing radiation calculations, and verifying dose distributions for treatments. In addition to physics knowledge, Christina lists critical thinking, effective communication, and math/computer proficiency as crucial for a successful career in medical physics.

Applying research to improve cancer treatment

Christina is currently working on a clinical trial project in radiation oncology. If successful, this project will allow VA medical personnel to treat patients using a variety of radiation research protocols and provide them with access to the latest techniques in patient care.

“I’m very excited about the prospects of these projects and the treatment opportunities that will be offered to our veterans as a result,” she says.

A fulfilling career

Christina describes her career as very fulfilling, especially since she knows that her work helps ensure that veterans receive quality treatment. Christina has had the opportunity to present at national conferences and participate in research projects for NASA and the USDA. She has also received several promotions and accolades for her participation in engineering and physics projects.

Advice for students

Bring humility

Christina’s job can be challenging at times: “You will be humbled on many occasions at some of the calculations and theory that you are expected to know,” she says. “Be encouraged knowing that many have come before you with the same challenges, and find strength knowing that you will also excel as they did,” she says.

Focus on and surpass your goals

In her spare time, Christina judges for the Louisiana Regional Science and Engineering Fair. She tells students to stay focused and always go above and beyond what is expected. “Remain in competition with your best self,” she says.

She also expounds on the numerous career possibilities within physics, citing research, development, project management, teaching, sales, applications, and support as just a few options. “There are endless opportunities for careers in physics,” she says.

Interested in becoming a medical physicist?

Albin Gonzalez Profile - Albin is a medical physicist working at Mercy Cancer Center in Ohio. Find out how his career is similar to and different from Christina's.

More information from American Association of Physicists in Medicine (AAPM)

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