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Duke VS U Penn Medical Physics

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  2. U Penn

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  1. Apr 7, 2014 #1
    I've recently got admitted into the medical physics master program at Duke and U Penn and don't know which one to choose. I'm now having a proton therapy thesis for my bachelor degree and I like it pretty much but not sure if it's a lifelong career choice. U Penn has a proton center, also they have a good record for getting students into residency program, but don't have a phd program. Duke has a bigger department,more professors and a phd program. My goal is to work in a prestigious hospital and I'm not so keen on a phd program, but in order to have better career development, I can also do a phd. So the problem remains whether to continue proton and whether to do a phd afterwards. Could anyone in this field or know about these two programs give me some suggestions? I'm supposed to make a decision before Apr 15th. Thanks so much!
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 7, 2014
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 7, 2014 #2


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    disclaimer: I'm not in the field.

    Contact each program and ask them to tell you what graduates of the programs have gone on to do. Ask specific questions. Since you were admitted to the program I'm sure they will be happy to help you
  4. Apr 7, 2014 #3


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    I'm not sure what you mean by "prestigious hospital." Medical physics is not a good career choice if you're after prestige, I'm afraid.

    For a student keen on becoming a medical physicist today, I would recommend planning on doing a PhD. You can get into the field as an MSc and there are initiatives underway to make the residency market more MSc-friendly, but realistically planning on the PhD is probably best. That said, you can always enter a PhD program after you've completed an MSc.

    With respect to specializing in protons - I believe there are about a dozen proton centres across the US now with maybe a handful more coming online in the coming years, so just be aware that's a niche area right now. I expect it to grow, but when assessing programs make sure that you're getting a broad education so that you'll be just as comfortable jumping into a "photons/electrons only" clinical as you would be getting into something more specialized.

    Aside from that I don't know too much about either specific program.
  5. Apr 7, 2014 #4
    thank you for your advice. I found the statistics of two programs here:
    http://www.sas.upenn.edu/lps/graduate/mmp/alumni-profiles [Broken]

    It feels like u penn concentrates on clinical experience more, and duke's more research type.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2017
  6. Apr 8, 2014 #5
    Well, I just mean that I want to work in big cancer centers instead of local community small clinics. It feels like PhD is a necessity for better future career development. If I go to U Penn, maybe I will apply for UT HSC @ Houston for PhD, although maybe it would still be pretty competitive two years later and a small chance of getting in since they rejected me this year. But I really look forward to work in MD Anderson's proton center. But if I go to duke, that would be more of a general MS and I would probably stayed at Duke for phd and doing totally different research topics and I have more choices with bigger department. But I was also suggested by another path, maybe a ms first then a residency program and get the certification from ABR and work for 3,4 years, then if I want to get back to research I can do a PhD after that. But I'm not sure after working for several years, would I be already used to working and could have problems getting back to research later on?
  7. Apr 8, 2014 #6


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    I know a few people who have tried this. The problems they encountered were forseeable.

    First, once you start working, you get used to a regular paycheque. And it's not just about whether you want to each Kraft Dinner or steak either. If you buy a house you have a mortgage. A new car usually comes with a new car loan. And you start thinking about saving for retirement. Giving that up is no longer just a choice because you have legal committments.

    The second issue is the multiple body problem. It's fairly common for people to pair up in at least a semi-permanent sense after school is over. Choosing to return to school for a PhD and drop a dual income may not necessarily be your exclusive decision any more. Throw in a couple of kids and a dog in to the mix and you can even get out-voted!

    Finally you have to look at what you will gain from the PhD. For an MSc working as a full time physicist, there really isn't a lot to gain professionally from going back to complete the PhD. You can still participate in research. You can even lead your own research projects. Potential gains that I can think of include: academic advancement, the ability to directly take on students, and being more competative in applying for grant money. You may also have more options availablle should you decide to move to a different job. But I think for most people who are fortunate enough to start working as an MSc medical physicist look at the time required and the opportunity cost of going back for the PhD and decide that it just isn't worth it.

    All of that of course assumes that you can find a job as an MSc in a market that's flooded with PhDs.
  8. Apr 10, 2014 #7
    I see what u r saying. I think my minds r set on phd now, either way, I'm going to get into a phd program after ms.
    But this morning, I checked my application status for UMN's phd program, and I got in. But there's no email yet, so I'm not sure about the funding situation yet. But do u think I should accept this phd offer from Minnesota and not going to Duke's ms? It feels like I know that there's no guarantee that I can get a phd spot in duke or even UT HSC@Houston after duke's msbut a part of me still have the hope to go there... Do u know anything about UMN's med phy program?
  9. Apr 10, 2014 #8


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    Unfortunately I don't have any experience with anyone from UMN either.

    I went to their web page and one thing I found a little odd was that there were no obvious links to the research that's being done there. That doesn't mean they're not doing anything. It was just a little odd in my book.

    I've posted before about what kinds of things I would look for in a medical physics graduate program. These include:
    - CAMPEP accreditation
    - a history of students getting residencies or going into positions consistent with where you want to go
    - opportunties for clinical involvment (QA positions)
    - research projects (at least one in particular) that you're genuinely interested in
    - modern facilities that will give you a broad clinical exposure
    - faculty that have time to mentor students
    - an emphasis on research and physics that will give you the skills to adapt to new technologies as they emerge rather than simply going through the "didactic curriculum" and stamping you with a degree
  10. Apr 14, 2014 #9
    Hi, choppy, I wonder do u by any chance know LSU's medphy program? Compared with duke, I wonder which one is better? I want to do radiation therapy in the future, so I would pay more attention to the research in radiation therapy than imaging.
  11. Apr 15, 2014 #10


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    I know one physicist in the Louisiana State University program - brilliant fellow. Personally I find some of the research that's going on there really interesting like the use of iodine agents in conjunction with a synchrotron x ray source for DNA-targeting. Otherwise I don't know too much more about it, I'm afraid.
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