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Written By

Tianna Killoran


College of Science and Engineering

Publish Date

11 January 2024

Getting into physics

After studying Physics in her undergraduate years at JCU, Ari Brodmann has forged a career in medical physics, working as part of a clinical team providing treatments to cancer patients. Now balancing her work at the Townsville University Hospital with her PhD research, Ari says she’s keen to support other students pursuing the same career pathway.

During her early years at JCU, Ari studied both physiology and physics as part of her Bachelor of Science. She says these studies fueled her passion for applying physics to the medical field and providing care to people.

“I did my Honours research in quantum physics. It was really fun,” Ari says. “I also studied medical physics during one of my Honours subjects and realised that I loved studying this area of physics and working with people.”

After studying a medical physics subject during her Honours year, Ari realised she enjoyed this field that combined physics, clinical care and anatomy.

From there, Ari says that she was able to pursue a career in the medical physics field while remaining in Townsville. “After graduating, I was offered a job working at the hospital and went down that path, which heavily influenced and shaped my PhD research,” she says.

A person lying down with blue and red lights on them and receiving radiation cancer treatment.
JCU Alumni Ari Brodmann smiling and standing next to the MR-Linac machine that provides targeted radiation treatment.
Right: Ari Brodmann with the MR-Linac at the Townsville Cancer Centre that provides targeted radiation treatments. Supplied by Marcus Powers.

Researching and learning on the job

After beginning work at the at the , Ari says she was quickly able to combine both training and research with new technological advancements for cancer treatments.

In 2019, the Cancer Centre received new technology that would enable targeted radiation treatment with real-time scans to identify how tumours were changing or progressing with each treatment. “Townsville University Hospital received the first MR-Linac Accelerator in Australia and was also the first hospital in the southern hemisphere to obtain the machine. The technology combines an MRI machine with a LINAC — a machine that provides radiation therapy — and there are opportunities for a lot of fun experimental physics,” she says.

Although Ari’s original PhD research focused on the macro side of physics and , — which focuses on the transportation of electrons through water and human tissues — her work with the MR-Linac inspired her to shift her focus.

“The MR-Linac really helped me to reshape my PhD. This machine combines radiation therapy with MRIs to support adaptive treatments,” Ari says. In other words, each treatment of radiation can be targeted with up-to-date MRIs.

“For the MR-Linac to perform treatments, it uses an online evaluation to ensure the dosage of radiation as part of the treatment plan.

“My PhD research involves of this software — alongside the owners of the software in France — so that it can accurately verify the treatment plan before the patient is treated,” she says. “I’ve been very focused on testing this independent treatment planning system and assessing the accuracy of the planning system model we use with the MR-Linac.”

Alongside her PhD, Ari has also been training to become an accredited medical physicist, which she recently completed. “To become an accredited medical physicist, you have to do a three-year clinical program where you undertake additional study and sit exams.”

"What I really like about this career is that you have your research and your professional component. This is important because you are constantly wanting to improve and optimise the way you provide patient care and improve their outcomes. In this field, we constantly get to work on this research while also maintaining and ensuring the equipment is fit for use. It’s a nice balance."

JCU Alumni, Ari Brodmann

Ari says that the day to day of her role sees her working with a variety of medical specialists. “Collaborating closely with radiation oncologists, radiation therapists, and occasionally nurses, my clinical involvement is subject to varying levels. Factors influencing this variability include the implementation of specialised treatment techniques (such as stereotactic body radiotherapy or stereotactic radiosurgery, and brachytherapy), staffing levels, and the integration of new equipment,” she says.

JCU Alumni Ari Brodmann (left) and Marcus Powers (right) who both research in the field of medical physics and now work at the Townsville Cancer Centre.

Supplied by Marcus Powers.

Providing patient care with a physics focus

Ari says that while she had to balance her workload alongside her studies to become an accredited medical physicist, she’s keen to encourage others interested in entering the medical physics field.

She says that her path was a little different, but that it is becoming more accessible in Townsville. “To become a certified Radiation Oncology Medical Physicist (ROMP), you have to successfully complete a Master’s in Medical Physics and then undertake the Australasian College of Physical Scientists & Engineers in Medicine (ACPSEM) Training, Education and Assessment Program (TEAP). This will allow you to work as a certified and registered ROMP.”

“My experience in Townsville was a bit of a special case because some of us began work and were learning on the go. Once we gained the accreditation in Townsville, we were able to undergo the training program. I was very thankful to have this opportunity here in Townsville,” she says.

Now that she has been accredited, Ari says she is keen to support other students. “I enjoy teaching and giving back to the community. I am really involved with the Australasian College of Physical Scientists and Engineers in Medicine (ACPSEM), which is the medical physics group in Australia. Now that I’m accredited, I’ve been trying to get even more involved and help others to become accredited,” she says.

“My vision is to create this foundation for training medical physicists and growing that culture in our hospital in Townsville,” she says. “I just love doing new things. For example, when we get new equipment, it’s this ‘wow’ moment that we can do things that haven’t been done before.”

“We’re always encouraging JCU undergraduate students who come through the Physics department to consider Honours, which is a great opportunity for them to do a project with us in the medical physics field,” Ari says. “Hopefully these studies will give more students a taster of this field and they might then go on to do their Master’s or PhD, or continue their training.”

Discover JCU Physics

Dive into the world of physics, which can lead you to a diversity of jobs. From working with computer models, analysing data, looking for patterns, and proposing explanations to long-unsolved questions, physicists have access to a wide array of career pathways.