Career Stories

Medical Physicists at PTW

Daniela Poppinga

 

Qualification: Physics (BSc, MSc, PhD)

Current Position: Research Scientist

Location: Freiburg, Germany

 

“As a medical physicist I can do good for patients.”

 

Why I became a medical physicist and

what got me to PTW.

 

Follow Daniela's story.

I started a basic physics degree without even knowing that radiation therapy even existed. I first started my bachelor's thesis in experimental physics, but I discontinued it and started anew, this time in Professor Björn Poppe's workgroup on Medical Radiation Physics. This new beginning was the best decision of my studies! I was so enthusiastic about the topic that I stayed in the workgroup. Parallel to my master's degree in physics, I started working in radiation therapy and nuclear medicine at Pius Hospital in Oldenburg.

After my studies, I then acquired the expertise as a medical physics expert and worked as a qualified medical physicist at Pius Hospital in Oldenburg. Parallel to my clinical work, I continued to be a member of Professor Poppe's workgroup and did a lot of research during that time, was involved in teaching, supervised many theses and wrote my doctoral thesis – with and about PTW detectors. In 2018, I then “changed sides” and have been working as a research scientist at PTW since then.

I work as a research scientist in the Department of Physical Technical Projects. My tasks are very versatile. On the one hand, I research for PTW, represent the company in research projects and publish scientific articles. I also support product management and have developed the concept for the RUBY modular phantom platform, supported product implementation, performed clinical validation and continue to be responsible for RUBY product management. In addition, I work in our Dosimetry School as a lecturer for theory and practice and also give further education courses in-house.

I particularly appreciate the versatility. My job is very diverse and flexible. I like the contact and exchanges with many hospitals around the world. However, I can also work outside hospitals and have worked for PTW at CERN, for example: a great honor and experience for me!

I'm fascinated by work in hospitals. Physics knowledge can be used directly to do good, because it contributes to the treatment of each individual patient. I find it very satisfying to be directly involved in the therapy of so many patients. In many other fields of physics, you are far removed from the actual application.

In the end, however, I decided to work in industry because there are more possibilities. In my current position, I can visit many more hospitals and learn how radiation therapy is applied worldwide. I am curious about this and I am interested in what different approaches are available. This knowledge can be used in turn for optimizing PTW products. As a result, my work can benefit a lot of hospitals in this way. Although I have much less patient contact, which is a pity, on the other hand it is also positive, because you sometimes have to deal with very sad fates in a hospital that can cause you a lot of stress. This is a long way from being the case in industry.

My clinical experience has convinced me that PTW develops and manufactures the best products in the field of radiation therapy. From the outset, I only considered PTW as possible employer if I decided to turn my back on the clinic and go into industry. It was also very important for me to be able to continue my research after changing careers, and I greatly appreciate the fact that PTW makes it possible for me to do so.

My recommendation is to work in a hospital first and then switch to industry. The reverse order is probably not that easy. If you bring your versatile hospital experience to industry, this is also very valuable for both sides.

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