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Are there careers in biochemical physics?

  1. Jun 29, 2013 #1
    Hello! I am currently a rising sophomore chemical physics major and a deep interest I have is in applying physics to help find medication, treatment, or cures to certain diseases or just helping advance medical knowledge through physics. I know medical physics exists, but I would be more interested in doing research rather than working with patients (although I wouldn't mind.) My question is: Are there options within physics do study biochemical system that relates to medicine or finding cures? I really appreciate it!
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  3. Jun 29, 2013 #2


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    You may want to read up on biophysics and pharmacokinetics. There is all sorts of really exciting work being done right now in modeling and designing nanoparticles or nanostructures for diagnostic and therapeutic purposes.

    I might also add that while medical physics has a strong clinical component, many medical physicists are quite engaged in research. And even on the clinical level, it's not all that common for a medical physicist to interact directly with a patient. It does happen from time to time, but most of the duties of a clinical medical physicist are behind the scenes.
  4. Jun 30, 2013 #3
    Thanks for the info! Are you by any chance in any of these related fields?
  5. Jun 30, 2013 #4


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    I'm a medical physicist.
  6. Jul 1, 2013 #5
    Awesome, could you tell me a little bit of what you do on a regular basis?
  7. Jul 1, 2013 #6


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    I'm a radiation oncology physicist at a smaller centre (two linear accelerators) that's a satellite of a larger centre affiliated with a university. Most of my time involves:

    1. Running a quality assurance program for our linacs and CT simulator. This means designing and maintaining the program, conduction the measurements, supervising a physics assistant who does some of the more regular measurements, following up on trends that are pressing the tolerance threshold and making decisions about whether the equipment is safe for clinical use.

    2. Quality control in treatment planning. This involve regular checks of plans that come though prior to any radiation actually being delivered, consulting in particularly problematic plans, administration of the treatment planning system, following up on errors, training dosimetrists (the people who do the regular planning), etc.

    3. Commissioning new devices or new technologies. For any new technology that comes into the clinic, we have to make sure that it's doing what it is supposed to be doing and we have to figure out how to modify our current processes and procedures to incorporated. This involves everything from making measurements to designing procedures. As a concrete example, we're soon going to be upgrading our treatment planning system, so this means going through all the documentation on the new system, testing it in known situations to prove it's performance is acceptable, working through bugs, setting up the algorithms so they perform as we expect, etc.

    4. Clinical investigations. This involves a lot of "problem solving" as inevitably, we run into scenarios where it's necessary to treat someone in a way that hasn't quite been done before or trying to get a better understanding of the consequences when faced with treatment decisions that push established limits. Right now, for example we're doing some work measuring errors that occur in pacemakers under irradiation by hooking them up to a circuit that we've designed that emulates a heart. Another example might be figuring out how to plan using only a conebeam CT image, and what the restrictions to that kind of practice might be in our clinic, given the resources available to us.

    5. Beyond that, I spend a fair amount of my time doing research and academics. I remotely teach at least one course per year in our graduate program, supervise graduate students, and try to move my own research forward. Much of my research is done in collaboration with other universities. For example I've recently done some work with a local radiation biologist and a neuroscientist who are interested in the bystander effects of radiation and scatter radiation on cognition.

    What I would say is that medical physics is definitely an "applied physics" field.

    For a more general description:
    Last edited: Jul 1, 2013
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