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Am I suitable for Medical Physics?

  1. Jul 27, 2015 #1
    I am a Bioengineering undergraduate student and want to pursue Medical Physics as my graduate program. But we learn classes mainly concerned with biology, programming and imaging. When I search for information about this field, many posts (this forum as well as other websites) say Medical Physics needs a very high level of Physics in order to get admitted. I only learned General Physics in my freshman year, which didn't cover much physics.

    Does this mean it's very hard for me to get admitted to Medical Physics graduate program? Does this area really need high level of Physics in order to continue?(before, I thought this was an Bioengineering area as it has something to do with imaging) Or is there any school with Medica Physics requiring more engineering compared to Physics?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 28, 2015 #2
    Could you list the physics , math , and engineering courses that you have taken? @Choppy can suggest remediation.
  4. Jul 28, 2015 #3
    Thank you for replying me! About Physics I only learn General Physics, which just cover a little about Physics. I haven't learned Quantum or E/M. About Math, I have learned mathematical analysis and linear algebra as well as partial differential equation and probability. About Engineering I have learned data structure, 51 single-chip microcomputer, fundamental of circuits and signal processing.

    And due to the schedule problem of school Quantum or E/M courses, I do not have time for these physics classes. Could Choppy give suggestion to me? Thank you.
  5. Jul 28, 2015 #4
    You math is OK. Although QM is not really necessary for Medical Physics not having it may hurt you. I forgot a modern physics course which I definitely think you should take this may include a intro to QM. For the record I have been retired for some time so I do not have first hand knowledge of current perspectives. I think Choppy can provide better advice on this matter. Having said that you do have relevant knowledge and a MP program might admit you and allow you to make up those courses. But remember this is a very competitive field so any deficiency is magnified.
  6. Jul 28, 2015 #5
    Certain CAMPEP accredited Medical Physics graduate programs require at least three upper level (3rd or 4th year) half-courses in traditional physics such as classical mechanics/dynamics, quantum mechanics, electromagnetic theory, thermal physics, atomic/nuclear physics, optical physics, or laboratory physics. Others do not, or may grant you admission on the condition you complete them in grad school. Check the institution's website to verify.
  7. Jul 28, 2015 #6
    The typical applicant for medical physics graduate programs has an undergraduate degree in physics. Most programs do not make that a hard requirement and some may allow for the equivalent of a minor in physics with a closely related major. At a minimum most institutions will want to see:

    (1) Physics coursework through modern physics. This will generally be at a minimum two semesters of general physics with lab and a separate modern physics course. Higher level courses in E&M, mechanics, quantum physics, electronics, thermodynamics, atomic physics, nuclear physics, etc. will be on most people's transcript but the minimum is up to each program with perhaps some guidelines provided from CAMPEP.

    (2) Mathematics coursework through differential equations. This will generally be two or three courses in calculus, a course in linear algebra, and a course in differential equations. Some may also want to see a course in applied mathematical methods.

    (3) Some programming, some anatomy/physiology, some biology, and some statistics. How much varies quite a bit depending on the program.

    Most graduate programs would happily share with you their individual coursework requirements for admission, so looking through their program websites and reaching out to the appropriate contact is a good first step. Many programs have soft pre-requisites that you can complete as electives while also completing your graduate coursework.

    Currently you would not be a typical applicant, but your background in programming and medical imaging would be positives for you. The reality is that graduate coursework in medical physics is not terribly difficult and a person can understand the material and be successful without having completed the highest level courses in physics and mathematics. If you have a unique skill set and a plan for utilization of those skills that can set you apart from other applicants then it is not outside the realm of possibilities that you could find a spot in a good program.

    However, to get to the point of meeting the minimum requirements for applying you would probably have to take another semester of general physics as well as a modern physics course. You would probably not be deficient in mathematics anywhere assuming you studied general calculus prior to partial differential equations.
    Last edited: Jul 28, 2015
  8. Jul 28, 2015 #7


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    I agree with most of what's been said already with the caveat that you have to pay attention to the particulars of each program. For example, some programs will require you to complete the same comprehensive exam for a PhD that all the other branches have to complete - so you'll need those advanced physics courses to pass that. Many (and perhaps most) programs don't have this requirement though.

    The other major factor - particularly at play for PhDs - is the type of thesis project you're likely to end up with. If you apply to a program where a lot of the research involves MRI-linac hybrids, for example, you will absolutely need a strong background in E&M. If your project is likely to involve a lot of simulation work they will look for you to have a computational physics background. Someone with your background might look for a program that does a lot of research on the imaging side of things, where a signal processing and imaging background is likely to be seen as a major advantage.
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