Medical physics is a specialized arm of physics that deals with the application of physical energy for medical diagnosis and treatment; examples include sonography and radiology. Medical physics graduate students learn to use various computer-based analytical tools and techniques with respect to the diagnosis and treatment of diseases. Programs often feature diagnostic imaging and radiation therapy as core areas of emphasis.
Relevant Information on the Master's Program
Prospective medical physics graduate students can enroll in the widely available Master of Science in Medical Physics. The duration of this program is generally 2 years, with a total of roughly 30-40 course credits required. The Commission on Accreditation of Medical Physics Education (CAMPEP) is the professional accrediting body for these programs.
Program completion may dictate a written or oral exam; a thesis may be required as well. Clinical rotations are often a part of the program. Students may have the opportunity to concentrate in a particular area of medical physics, such as radiation therapy or medical diagnostic imaging, though programs usually cover the following core topics:
Biological Effects of Radiation
Students learn about the biological effects of radiation at various levels in the body, from molecular to cellular. The damaging effects of radiation on DNA during radiation therapy for some diseases are explored. Courses may include topics in the chemistry of radiation absorption and the biology of diseases like cancer, among other possibilities.
Diagnostic Imaging in Medical Physics
In these courses, students explore the various computational and mathematical tools for the reconstruction and processing of images used for medical diagnoses. The fundamentals of image processing in the medical field are taught in detail; courses may cover magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), optical imaging, and other techniques.
Clinical courses about radiation therapy teach students how to apply radiation treatment to many diseases and patients. Radiation methods, including energy photon and electron therapy, are generally covered. The clinical roles and tasks of the medical physicist may also be covered. Advanced courses may focus on specific types of therapy, such as brachytherapy.
Radiation Safety & Health Physics
This course deals with the protections involved while using radiation therapy. Protections for treatment facilities are discussed and national recommendations and regulations are taught. Students typically learn about radiation shielding design and may learn about radioactive monitoring.
Courses related to dosimetry cover the methods of calculation for dosages to be given during radiation treatment, how much of the radiation is absorbed, and the principles behind dosimetry in radiation therapy. Models for internal and external dosimetry are generally covered.
Students applying for a master's in this field are required to have a bachelor's degree in physics or a comparable field from a recognized institution. A strong undergraduate foundation in physics and mathematics with a bachelor's in an unrelated field may be considered. A minimum GPA for the undergraduate degree may be required by some colleges. Recommendation letters and a personal statement of intent are taken into account. GRE scores are typically required, and TOEFL scores are usually mandatory for international students. Professional experience in a related field may be considered.
If you want a career that merges physics, medicine, and technology, then medical physics may be the right choice for you. On completing an approved master's degree in this field, you can work with patients and aid in the diagnoses and treatment of various diseases by harnessing physical phenomena with advanced technology.