Kate Saucke: From Math to Medical Health Physics
Growing up with parents who were math teachers, Kate Saucke knew that she would do something in math. When she learned about radiological health engineering at Texas A&M University, she was fascinated with radiation and a way to use her passion for math in a different way.
“Radiation has such a bad name. The general public doesn’t know all the good things that can come from it,” Saucke said. “If it’s used in a good way, it can be helpful to society.”
Saucke explained that radiation is used in cancer therapy and cancer research along with diagnostic needs such as radiation in x-ray or CT machines. As a student in the M.S. in Medical Health Physics program, she is learning about the environmental safety aspect of radiation and how to manage radiation to protect human health.
She explained that while she was a student at Texas A&M University, Dr. Michael Charlton, director of the M.S. in Medical Health Physics program, spoke to her class about how to reduce dose to the public and radiation workers.
“I realized I wanted to be in the healthcare field but I didn’t want to be a doctor or a nurse so I learned from Dr. Charlton’s talk that medical health physics was another way to help people,” she said.
The program which is two years long also has a research project component. Saucke has already taken classes on radiation safety, diagnostics, and therapy and is currently working on her thesis project.
Kate’s research focuses on the quality assurance/quality control of dental x-ray units. She is trying to develop a more efficient way to test the units in accordance with the Texas Department of State Health Services.
In addition to classes, she works part time for the Environmental Health and Safety office as part of the radiation safety lab. She goes to University Hospital and other clinics to check that there is no contamination in the labs or spaces. She also inspects packages containing radioactive materials to verify that there are no spills and that they meet radiation safety requirements.
“We get five to ten packages a week so there’s a lot of work,” she explained.
In the future, Kate plans to be a Radiation Safety Officer working at a hospital.
“There’s a lot of job security because there aren’t a lot of people in this field,” she said. “It’s a cool field but many people just don’t know about it.
This article was written by Charlotte Anthony, marketing specialist at the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at UT Health San Antonio. This article is part of the “Meet The Researcher” series which showcases researchers at the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio.