Julie Speakman

A huge thank you to everyone who has voted! Can't believe I'm through to the last day!

Favourite Thing: Get to the root of a problem and work out how to fix it.



University of Sheffield from 1991 – 1997. Le Mans University in France 1992 -3


A-levels in Physics, French, Maths and General Studies. Later did AS-level Spanish. BSc Hons in Phsyics. Also a french “licence” in Physics. PhD in Physics

Work History:

Worked for a Brewery, ran my own business, taught at Loughborough University. Also Waterstones and Gala Bingo – amongst others!

Current Job:

Medical Physicist in Nuclear Medicine


Derby Hospital

Me and my work

I like my job because I get to do geeky science stuff like testing big equipment but also talk to people who are ill and help them with their treatment.

My job is very mixed .  I work in a hospital so everything is related to the real world, which I love.  One minute I can be trying to find out why our equipment isn’t working, the next minute I am called to the phone because a patient is worried about their treatment.

Nuclear Medicine is so clever – it’s kind of like a backwards X-ray.  We give people slightly radioactive injections which will look at a part of the body that they are worried about.  They lie under a big camera which can see where the radiation has gone to in their body.  The pictures help us to see what is wrong and how we can help them.  We have different scans for different diseases all over the body and it’s not always injections, sometimes patients have to eat a radioactive cottage pie or drink a milkshake!

I need to make sure the equipment all works properly and that the patients are safe.  We are always looking for ways to reduce the amount of radiation patients receive but still make sure we get good pictures.  Sometimes I will give them advice about how they need to act when they go home while we are waiting for the radiation to leave their bodies.

My Typical Day

Aaagh in one sentence! Er equipment problems, laughing with colleagues, reassuring patients, and lots of interruptions!

Drop my little boy at school, get stuck in traffic, dash to work.  Switch on computer and check e- mail. Go down to the camera room and check the results from the daily checks the staff have done.  Get interrupted to go to the phone to a reassure a patient that their cat will be ok after their radioactive treatment.  Go back to camera room to set up a measurement to check they are running safely.

Meet with manufacturers to talk about  buying a new gamma camera (nearly half a million pounds!). Have a cup of tea, chat to colleagues in the staff room.

Find a problem with one of the gamma cameras.  Battle with call centre to send us an engineer ASAP. Work with staff to rearrange bookings, trying not to delay too many patients.

In the afternoon, run a treatment clinic  with Janet – patients coming in to have a special kind of radiation to make their thyroid better.  There’s often tears and laughter….people react in different ways to being a bit frightened!

After tea, have a quick chat with our chief technologist about a new research trial that we will be part of. We need to keep a radioactive plate in the same place whilst the patient is having their scan… we start messing about with bulldog clips, chairs, retort sands, wire and tape….are we back at school?!

What I'd do with the money

Take Nuclear Medicine to my son’s primary school for a science experience they’ll never forget!

My Interview

How would you describe yourself in 3 words?

Honest, sparky, kind

Who is your favourite singer or band?

Paul Weller….but I also love the Craig Charles funk and soul show

What's your favourite food?

Garlicky prawns, good steak, sea bass….can’t decide!

What is the most fun thing you've done?

Again hard to pick…..maybe flying over a glacier in New Zealand in a helicopter? Or swimming in freezing cold sea off Irish coast? Or winning tickets to see Strictly live in the BBC studios?

What did you want to be after you left school?

I had no idea!

Were you ever in trouble in at school?

For talking because I was helping my friend in maths

What was your favourite subject at school?

Maths and French

What's the best thing you've done as a scientist?

Making a difference to patients during their time being treated for cancer

What or who inspired you to become a scientist?

My Dad, My A-level Physics teachers and doing other jobs not in science!!

If you weren't a scientist, what would you be?

Professional cricketer

If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!

Worry less, be outside more, live by the sea

Tell us a joke.

What time is it when you have to go to the dentist? Tooth – hurtie

Other stuff

Work photos:

myimage1 A gamma camera – one of my babies!

myimage2 A very big patient (?!) going under the camera

myimage3 This is an example of a bone scan – we do a lot of these.  It can show where cancer has spread to much earlier than other pictures like X-rays.

myimage4 This is a picture of me pretending to inhale radioactive gas. This is what our patients may have to do if they are having a lung scan, which is a picture that can show if someone has a blood clot in their lungs…it is very important to find these quickly so the doctors can give them medicine to save their lives!