Academic Profile

Research and Development

The involvement of physics and engineering in medicine has a long history. There are many famous examples: the discovery of radium, the use of X-rays, the invention of CT scanning, Magnetic Resonance Imaging and diagnostic ultrasound. The role of physics and engineering in the NHS has always been to facilitate the introduction of new technology and to ensure its safe and effective use. Most hospital physics departments were founded around radiotherapy. As technology has advanced, this role has become more diverse and encompassed many aspects of technology, in imaging, patient monitoring, therapy, computing and rehabilitation.
Medical physics staff have a wide variety of scientific and technical expertise: there are electronic engineers, physicists, bioengineers, computer scientists, a range of technical staff including anaesthetics and mechanical workshop technicians, and administrative staff. This combination has been very successful for the NHS, and especially so in Scotland. The first whole body MRI scanner was developed by the medical physics department in Aberdeen. The first real-time ultrasound probes in widespread NHS use were designed and built in the RIE. Although major technical developments in healthcare don't occur every day, many incremental improvements and innovations stem from physicists and engineers working closely with clinical colleagues. In the modern NHS, the spectrum of medical physics work ranges from first-line servicing of medical equipment - perhaps repairing a damaged connector - to leading major research projects funded by bodies such as the MRC and the Wellcome Trust. There are a great variety of activities in between these two extremes, and certainly not enough space to write about them all here!


Several staff are involved in lecturing and examining:
  • Formal teaching of SpRs studying for FRCR Part 1 and of SpRs in Cardiology as required by IRMER regulations.
  • Participation in BSc course for Radiographers at Queen Margaret University College.
  • Formal teaching of medical staff registered on the Scottish Oncology Course.
  • Acting as national and local examiners for the IPEM Part 1 Training Scheme for Medical Physicists and Engineers.
  • Formal teaching on the UoE MSc in Life Sciences (Biomedical Imaging Module).


  • A senior member of staff acts as Training Coordinator in Lothian for the national Medical Physics & Engineering training scheme accredited by the Institute of Physics and Engineering in Medicine (IPEM). Clinical Scientists (Medical Physicists & Engineers) are part of a Scottish Consortium that includes Medical Physics Departments in Aberdeen, Inverness, Dundee, Glasgow and Edinburgh. There are 6-7 graduate entrants per year, with a 4 year period of training and education working towards registration with HPC. NHS Lothian delivers training in Radiotherapy, Diagnostic Radiology, Radiation Protection, Medical Ultrasound and MRI. Within Lothian, the scheme integrates training provided by the Departments of Medical Physics and Oncology Physics.
  • The Department provides a Training Coordinator for the Institute of Physics and Engineering national training scheme for Clinical Technologists. Lothian is an accredited centre for Clinical Technologist training, and the scheme integrates training provided by Medical Physics, Oncology Physics, and the Medical Physics group based at St John’s Hospital. Typically 6-7 staff in Lothian are enrolled at any one time.
  • Informal training in Radiation Protection for medical, radiography, dental and nursing staff as required and to provide update training for RPSs.
  • Supervision of clinical skills co-ordinators.
  • Training medical, nursing and other staff in the use of medical devices.
  • Developing strategies and plans for medical devices training, including planning competency evaluation.
  • Develop training materials. Current work includes the preparation of device-specific training and evaluation material covering a wide range of infusion devices and general background material illustrating the basic principles of a range of ward based medical devices.
  • Training of undergraduate medical students.

Training links with other Healthcare Science professions in the Physical, Physiological and Life Sciences are maintained via the Lothian Area Healthcare Scientists Committee.


Last Reviewed: 06/02/2015