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Engineering Biomedical Engineering vs Medical Physics

  1. Jan 15, 2010 #1
    Hi everybody Im new to this forum and looking for some opinions on my career path. First, I love anything about math and science and about to graduate with a B.S. in Biomedical Engineering Technology. When I first started the program I thought I would end up with an engineering degree, which is not true. With my internship that I completed and my job prospects I know its more of doing maintenence work. Im very interested in diagnostic medical imaging equipment, mainly working in the field of R&D. Im assuming I would work in the industry field instead of hospitals to do this. I know I can specialize in biomedical imaging with an M.S. in BME. I have asked a few engineers about this and they have told me the best way would be to complete a B.S. in EE, then M.S. in BME. Well to make things more complicated, I read about medical physics for the first time earlier this morning. It seems that its the application of physics to problems involving human health and improvements in the diagnosis and understanding of disease. It also mentioned that you can develop better diagnostic equipment which is what confused me. Can anybody elaborate more about medical physics to my situation? Should it be something that I do more research about? Thanks for any inputs.
    Last edited: Jan 15, 2010
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 15, 2010 #2


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    Hi Zman35,

    Imaging science in biomedical engineering tends to concentrate on MRI work. Of the medical physicists that I know who specialize in MRI, most came through some sort of a biomedical engineering program. On the other hand I also know lots of medical physics graduate students with projects that are MRI-based.

    Imaging in medical physics tends to be a little more broadly encompassing - dealing with CT, nuclear medicine imaging (PET, SPECT), ultrasound, optical imaging, mammography, and MRI. Reasearch on the imaging side of medical physics can involve things like:
    - deformable image registration,
    - signal processing,
    - artefact identification and removal,
    - real time target tracking,
    - backscatter x-ray imaging,
    - synchrotron-based imaging,
    - algorithms for structure/tissue/disease identification,
    - detector design and simulation, etc.

    I hope that gives you a little bit of a picture. Both BME and medical physics are worth looking into if you think you would enjoy this kind of work.
  4. Jan 16, 2010 #3
    As usual Choppy is the one to listen to in matters of this type!

    Which country are you from zman35? I ask because in the UK the medical physics role in the National Health Service starts through entry to a training programme. The training consists of on-the-job learning as well as a taught masters in medical physics which, depending on which local authority you're working under, can either be one year full time or two years part time (with full salary). This training programme happens to have the same entry requirements as the biomedical engineer does, and infact has exactly the same application process. There are crossover between these fields. (If you're not in the UK, sorry!, but at least you've gained further understanding of how the field works generally...)

    Essentially, in britain, it seems as though completing training/PhD in biomedical engineering does not necessarily limit ones choice in terms of becoming a medical physicist, but like Choppy maybe suggested, studying biomedical engineering may suggest which area of medical physics you could enter. If you do decide to go the biomedical engineer's route, then perhaps you'd consider something related to imaging or the like, such that you would be able to advertise this experience if you consider changing in the future.
  5. Jan 16, 2010 #4
    Fasterthanjoao I am from the United States but I did forget to mention some other things about me that will futher my education that is amazing. First I am a disabled veteran that lives in Texas that has very good education benefits such as the Hazelwood Act and Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services (DARS). I used my veteran benefits to complete my B.S. in BMET that gave me a basic understanding of biomedical engineering. Then there is The Hazelwood Act that offers me 150 hours of paid tuition and DARS offers me a complete degree program. So with this information what would be my best education plan to take? I live in Houston and so far U of H said that my general courses will transfer but I will have to retake my math, science and electronic courses and then be able to work on my M.S. degree which equals about 150 credit hours which the Hazelwood Act will cover. Im thinking a B.S. in EE and then an M.S. in BME. Now I still have the DARS program that will cover more education for me but I dont know what to do with that. Does anybody have any ideas? Im assuming going for my PhD, but how does that work? Does anybody know what I will be actually doing when Im working on my PhD? Choppy, the things that you mentioned are exactly what Im intersested in as far as the equipment and the research I will be doing. Do you know if I would actually be doing the improvements of the equipment, or would that be the manufacturing field? If that makes sense. So as you can see I have alot of options to choose from. Any replies?
  6. Jan 17, 2010 #5


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    The most conventional route to get into medical physics is to do an undergraduate degree in physics and then get into a CAMPEP accredited graduate program for at least a master's degree. Alternatively going the electrical engineering route, followed by a master's degree in BME would get you into the imaging field - particularly if you're interested in MRI.

    If you want to do research, you pretty much need to get a PhD these days. Master's degrees are essentially a minimum requirement for clinical positions.

    If you pursue a PhD, your choice of project is largely up to you. It will depend on the specialties within the institution you attend. To answer your questions, yes, you can take on a hardware or software project that aims to improve the equipment within a specific modality. Some friends of mine, for example have had projects that examined the use of new scintillation materials in megavotage imaging detectors. After school, you can pursue such research academically, or enter the commercial world. Some students will even get patents out of their research and start up their own companies (although don't count on that).
  7. Jan 18, 2010 #6
    I know that I am a little bit off topic here, but may I ask are there any CAMPEP-accredited programs in Europe and if there are, in which countries/universities are offered?
  8. Jan 18, 2010 #7


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    Here's the list:

    CAMPEP is primarily a North American organization. For some reason I was under the impression that there was an accredited institution in Ireland, but I don't see it on the list. Obviously in Europe if they don't have any institutions accredited by this agency, you don't need it for certification.
  9. Jan 23, 2010 #8
    I think the accredited program in Ireland that you're thinking of is a residency, rather than a graduate program. I believe it's the only grad program/residency that CAMPEP has accredited outside of North America.
  10. Jan 26, 2010 #9
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