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Guidance for postgrad in radiation physics.

  • #1

Main Question or Discussion Point

Hi,

I’m currently at college for my B.S. in physics and I’m working toward my minor in bio. My original goal was to go for a B.S. in physics and then through the program offered by my school, get a M.S. in engineering. However, I had a change in heart beginning of last semester and dropped the engineering aspect and feel a lot better after doing it. However I’m now a bit back on my bio minor. I really got interested in radiation after my Atomic Lab and now have an extremely strong inclination toward radiation physics and cancer. This is where my issue comes in. I’m stuck between what I initially want to do, research or treatment. As well, I don’t know if I want to be a medical physicist or oncologist. Either way I know one of those two is the road I want to go down. I’m just not sure which and the time to make my decision is closing in as I’m going to graduate in a year. Any opinions or info on the post grad options or experiences similar to this?
Thanks
As well if any of you have any ideas about general places to check for internships deal with the subject that would be a huge help.
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
Choppy
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This is one of those decisions that could very well be made for you.

If you want to become a radiation oncologist, you'll have to go to medical school first. That means making sure that you get in the prerequisite courses, write the MCAT, do lots of volunteer work, etc. Then you'll compete for a radiation oncology residency. I'm not sure exactly what the competition is like for them, but there aren't a lot of positions compared to other specialties in medicine.1

If you want to become a medical physicist, ideally you want to get into a CAMPEP-accredited graduate program. These too can be quite competitive to get into. Then after you complete either an MSc, or as is becoming more common these days, a PhD, you get to compete for a medical physics residency. Unfortunately these aren't guaranteed for every student who completes a medical physics graduate program.

So there are a lot of hoops to jump through in either direction. As someone finishing up an undergraduate degree in physics, you could simply aim to finish strong and then apply in both directions. Then make a decision if you happen to get into both.

I might also point out that it doesn't have to be as dichotomous as "research or treatment." Both professions do both, and a lot can depend on what you make of the opportunities that present themselves. Most medical physicists are heavily involved in clinical operations. There isn't a lot of direct patient contact, but you can get deeply involved in the treatment planning - particularly if the particular case is challenging or new. You can also do a lot of quality control work, commissioning new equipment, setting up new procedures (and reviewing old ones), radiation protection, teaching, etc. Research tends to come after the clinical day is done.

Some radiation oncologists can get deeply involved in research. Often this ends up being the kind of research that's a lot closer to the clinic than not - clinical trials, for example. But some can even get involved in the translational research as well. A lot depends on where they end up working. If you're at an academic centre, you can get involved with the radiation biologists or the medical physicists.
 

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