What does an Radiation Oncology Physicist do?

Our work falls into three categories: clinical, research and academic.  The proportion of time an individual spends in each of these categories depends on their interests and particular job position.  Most Radiation Oncology Physicists have largely clinical positions.

Clinical  – We are involved in all stages for radiation therapy.  We work in a multidisciplinary environment, collaborating with physicians, nurses, radiation therapists and dosimetrists to ensure our patients get the best cancer care available. In certain special procedures, we participate directly in patient care, but most of our work is done ‘behind the scenes.’ We:

  • Select, install, and commission new radiotherapy equipment.
  • Develop and implement new radiotherapy techniques.
  • Develop and oversee quality assurance programs for treatment techniques and equipment.
  • Provide daily clinical support.
  • Liaise between other medical professionals, manufacturers, and regulatory agencies

Research – Many Radiation Oncology Physicists actively participate in clinical and basic scientific research.  Research interests range from the abstract to the applied and may include:

  • Develop new therapeutic or diagnostic procedures
  • Implement and/or integrate new equipment into clinical use
  • Investigate or evaluate therapeutic or diagnostic outcomes/performance
  • Basic scientific research

Some Radiation Oncology Physicists have purely research positions, while others have a research mandate as part of their clinical appointments.  At the Tom Baker Cancer Centre, the Radiation Oncology Physicists spend about 30% of their time doing research.  Please refer to the staff individual web pages for more information on research interests.                                                              

Academic – Teaching is a vital part of most radiotherapy departments. At the Tom Baker Cancer Centre, Radiation Oncology Physicists participate in training graduate students, Radiation Oncology Physics residents, Radiation Oncology residents, radiation therapists and other allied health professionals.  The Radiation Oncology Physicists at the TBCC all hold academic appointments in the Departments of Physics and Astronomy or Oncology or both.  Many actively participate in University of Calgary programs and committees.

To learn more about a career in radiation oncology physics, please visit:

The Canadian Organization of Medical Physicists
The American Association of Physicists in Medicine