Tom Lister

I've had a great time and very pleased to make it through to the last day. Thank you for all of the brilliant questions.

Favourite Thing: I really love understanding how things work, and applying this to help people.



I studied Physics at Bath, then Medical Physics at Surrey. I’m now doing my PhD with Southampton Uni.


3 A’s, 5 B’s and 3 C’s at GCSE, AS level Psychology (B), A level Physics (A), PE (B) and Maths (C), BSc Physics (2:1) and MSc Medical Physics (Distinction)

Work History:

I’ve worked as a Medical Physicist for two years at Bristol Hospital and 3.5 years here in Salisbury. I also did some summer work in a theme park and in some shops before this.

Current Job:

Medical Physicist


Salisbury NHS Foundation Trust

Me and my work

I try to find better ways of firing lasers at people…

..for their benefit, of course. I try to understand how light travels through skin so that I can improve the way that skin laser treatments are done. I also need to help make sure that treatments are done safely.

Our lasers are used to zap the blood vessels in disfiguring red birth marks or large burn scars, pigments in brown birth marks or tattoos, and we even have one that cuts through skin.

My Typical Day

I work in a hospital, researching stuff online, writing my PhD thesis and seeing patients.

Mostly sitting at a desk in a hospital reading about how other scientists have looked at the way light travels through skin and then trying to do it a bit better.  During clinics, I check the lasers are working properly, make sure people are working safely and help to choose which laser and what settings to use for each patient.

What I'd do with the money

Buy a telescope for a local school

Science is all about experiencing life and trying to explain how it all works.  Looking at the stars can be fascinating, and fuels ineterest in optics, physics, maths and even philosophy.  You can learn a lot from just looking up at night, or even using binoculars, but nothing beats being able to see Saturn’s rings,  Jupiter’s moons or the spiral structures of distant galaxies to get an idea of the scale and diversity of the universe.

The school in question functions as a close community and does all sorts of stuff outside of normal schooling hours – so a late night class to look at stars will be well attended!

My Interview

How would you describe yourself in 3 words?

Inquisitive, Principled, Driven

Who is your favourite singer or band?

Mark Knoffler

What is the most fun thing you've done?

Flying gliders; nothing beats the freedom, or the adrenaline rush from doing ‘beat-ups’ (have a look on YouTube)

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

The gift of patience, the ability to nurture, and infinite wishes of course.

What did you want to be after you left school?

I haven’t left yet! I need to be challenged, and education is a structured way of ensuring that.

Were you ever in trouble in at school?

Only when I turned up.

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

It’s early days, but when I recommended changing our approach for a few patients who have been coming to us for years and years and it worked, I got a real buzz. It’s small fish really, but could be life changing for them.

Tell us a joke.

Why was 6 afraid of 7? Because 7 8 9!

Other stuff

Work photos:

I’m lucky enough to work in the new part of the hospital which is lovely, if you like hospitals!

[myimage1 centre]

The place I work is actually called the Wessex Specialist Laser Centre, but that doesn’t fit on the sign.  Come on in….

[myimage2 centre]

My favourite room is the Ward.  Apart from the 2 beds, which are always attractive after a hefty lunch, we have a fantastic view.  If you were to have a meeting with me, or even come to have a treatment, this would usually be the first place I would take you.

[myimage3 centre]

This is me at my desk.  Books and old Uni notes above me, filing cabinet full of journal articles on the right and no shoes on, just like Hannibal Lecter.

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This is one of the laser rooms.  The grey box on the left is the laser we use for hair removal and the one one the right with the buttons on the front is good for brown birth marks and tattoos.

[myimage5 centre]

Some more lasers.  Nearest one cuts through skin and is good for smoothing out scars or removing brown marks which are close to the surface.  The red one is our old ruby laser and is occasionally brought out for the odd brown birthmark or tattoo.  At the back is an IPL, which is ok for some treatments of pale freckles or little blood vessels, but isn’t as good as our lasers for the stuff we usually tackle.

[myimage6 centre]

And finally, a picture of a typical treatment!  I’m probably the scientist at the back with my hands in my pockets…


Of course, we would be wearing safety goggles (I guess that’s not very James Bond)