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Physics I don't know what to get a master's in -- Medical physics? Engineering?

  1. Jan 27, 2016 #1
    I'm a Physics Undergrad Junior, and I'm currently studying for the GRE's but I don't even know what I want to get a masters in. I refuse to go for a PhD in anything primarily because I don't want to be used as slave for 4+ years, and I have no direct passion in anything.
    My ideal requirements for a career includes:
    It being stem related (I like all sciences but obviously physics the most)
    $120k+/yr (This seems like a lot but I reside near NYC)
    The ability to move up as in upper management
    Versatility as in if I ever lost my job my skills/experience would be transferable to another field.
    I'm fine with computers but I enjoy hands on work(i.e lab research) - I like testing > building
    Not overcrowded with PhD holders

    I feel like no career fills this criteria. I feel like my Physics degree has given me no type of real world value unless I go for a Phd. All the public info about physics careers, and salaries are for PhD holders. I have come to terms with getting a masters but I don't know in what. I'm not the brightest person for I only have a 3.2 GPA. Based on that, the criteria above, and the following skills/courses what would I be a good fit for in terms of a masters/career:
    Calc I, II, III, ODE
    Descriptive Astronomy
    Math Lab (Software for numerical/symbolic computation, Matlab)
    Physics I, II, Modern Physics
    Electronics I, Physical Electronics (I like computers/electronics but I hated everything AC)
    Linear Algebra, Stats Intro
    Math Methods in Physics
    Thermodynamics / Statistical Mechanics
    EM
    Physical Optics
    Classical Mechanics I, Quantum Mechanics I
    Python, Numpy
    C++(learning)
    CAD
    3+ years of Plasma Physics research
    My interests include:
    Nanotechnology/Nano-particles, Neurology, Medical Physics, Data analysis, explosives, high power lasers, micro-plasma, and robotics.

    I thought about Medical Physics and Data science but I need backups considering those fields have major red flags, and I don't even know if I would be even admitted to masters programs in those. I'm also 15-18 credit away from a math major maybe I should just delay the inevitable...
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 27, 2016 #2

    Choppy

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    Medical Physics is a difficult field to get into with a 3.2 GPA, but aside from the "not overcrowded with PhD holders" it probably has what you're looking for.

    In general, the issue that you'll find is that just about any "decent" job is going to be competitive - the market tends to be an efficient one.
     
  4. Feb 6, 2016 #3
    Engineering physics (I know a program with a specialisation in medical systems in this master) or Computer science.
    something like this program with the biomedical concentraton:

    http://www.phys.cwru.edu/undergrad/programs/bs_engr.php
     
    Last edited: Feb 6, 2016
  5. Feb 7, 2016 #4
    The link you provided is for undergrads but I will look into masters of Engineering physics. How does it exactly work though? Is there a masters equivalent of a BSE and how is it different from a normal engineering degree i.e Mechanical Engineering?
     
  6. Feb 7, 2016 #5
    What math is generally used in the profession? Can you pm me tips on how to make myself more competitive?
     
  7. Feb 8, 2016 #6

    Choppy

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    Day to day there's really a lot of very basic high-school level stuff, - for example redundant checking of the results computer programs are giving you in terms of machine output, or plugging numbers into a spreadsheet, interpolations, calculating source strengths, etc. But really, you need to be comfortable with most of the topics covered in a mathematical methods course (Boas, Arfken, Kreyszig). In order to understand imaging physics you need to really understand Fourier transforms, convolutions, filters, etc. A lot of radiation transport (ultimately determining dose distributions) is searching for solutions to the Boltzmann equation, which is solved in a number of different ways (Monte Carlo, convolution-superposition, grid-based numerical techniques). At the clinical level, it's usually commercial software that handles the calculations, but as the clinical physicist you hold responsibility for knowing what it's doing and for understanding when and how it can sometimes generate incorrect results. It also help to have a solid background in statistics. Beyond that, a lot can depend on the specific research projects that you get involved with.


    Have you already seen this?
    https://www.physicsforums.com/insights/become-medical-physicist-3653-easy-steps/

    Really making yourself more competitive comes down to the same advice for most graduate programs. Try to bring up your GPA as high as you can. Try to get involved with a research project. Learn as much as you can about the field.
     
  8. Feb 10, 2016 #7
    Yeah I read that link before. I'm aware of who you are as well. I just feel so lost can you tell me the difference between diagnostic and therapy in terms of roles, education, pay, outlook, etc...
     
  9. Feb 11, 2016 #8

    Choppy

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    Clinically, diagnostic imaging physicists are responsible for making sure that imaging procedures and technology are optimizing the balance between image quality and radiation dose. They do this through protocol and procedure development; as well as implementing, supervising and conduction quality assurance programs. There are often involved with imaging machine procurement and commissioning and are responsible for making sure that imaging machines meet legal standards with respect to radiation protection. Some diagnostic imaging physicists double as radiation safety officers. This report is somewhat dated, but it still gives a reasonable overview of the role that imaging physicists play in the clinic. You might also want to look up the roles that imaging physicists can play in the Image Gently Campaign and the Image Wisely Campaign.

    The clinical role of a therapy physicist is centered around the delivery of ionizing radiation for the treatment of disease (most often cancer). My Insight's post on medical physics goes into the details. Last I checked, about 80% of the AAPM membership are therapy physicists, so they make up the majority of medical physicists.

    In terms of education it's very similar. In fact, most medical physics graduate programs should prepare graduates for a role in either branch. Twenty years ago, I think the imaging and therapy branches were more distinct, but today most modern linacs come equipped with some kind of imaging device - often more than one - so there's a lot of overlap. They diverge during residencies and then certification is branch-specific.

    As far as pay goes, I'm not sure there's much of a difference. Comparing median salaries of certified physicists, the therapy physicists seem to get a little more, but I'm not sure if the difference is statistically significant.

    General career outlook is likely to be stable for both, largely because cancer incidence is expected to grow in a stable manner. It's a competitive field though, particularly in a slower economy.
     
  10. Apr 17, 2016 #9
    Can you please go more in-depth about the math. Are all those subjects something I'm supposed to learn as an undergrad. The curriculum on a lot of MP sites dont show math heavy courses. I'm scared because I'm a math and physics double major and in reality all I know at the math level is calc I-III, DE, Linear Algebra, Probability Theory, Modern Algebra, Discrete Math, and Math methods in Physics (Boas). Like a fool my prof double dipped in the methods class with calc topics therefor we skipped Fourier series/transform, and we skipped chapter 9 to the end of the book. I dont know anything about Fourier series, convolutions-superpostion, filters, MonteCarlo, etc. Can you please go more indepth on the math so I can somehow show admissions that I can do the work.
     
  11. Apr 17, 2016 #10

    Choppy

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    I find it odd that someone could get through a double major in mathematics and physics without seeing Fourier transforms - maybe that's because there was so much emphasis on it in my own experience. You need Fourier transforms to be able to understand the process of convolution, and convolution (as well as deconvolution) is pretty foundational for image or signal processing, which has a lot of applications outside of just medical imaging.

    Anyway, my personal experience was that very little (if any) new mathematical material was introduced to me in my medical physics graduate program. Instead, I think a lot of the learning was more about new applications. For me, as an undergrad a lot of the material was thrown at me with a very superficial explanation of the applications - or at least that's what it felt like at the time, in hindsight it's entirely possible that my undergrad professors explained the applications until they were blue in the face. It was in graduate school where I had to start applying a lot of the material that I'd learned in my mathematical methods course and that's when the light bulbs began to turn on. So if there's a lot of material that's conceptually new to you, it's not impossible to get through, but you would likely have a bigger hill to climb than others in your class.

    If you want a better idea of what the math will really look like check out a textbook like Bushberg. This is a pretty common textbook in the field. I can't say that it's the most advanced you would ever get, but it will give you an idea of what to expect from the imaging point of view, which is probably where the most challenging math is in medical physics.
     
  12. Apr 17, 2016 #11
    I am as confused as you on the Fourier transform part. We got to it initially during math methods but never finished. I go to a small school. They do also offer an "ODE for Engineers" elective but it only runs every 2 years due to size, and unfortunately ill be missing it. Is the Boas book good enough to sufficiently learn FT?
     
  13. Apr 18, 2016 #12

    Choppy

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    Yes. That's going to be the level that most programs will assume that incoming medical physics graduate students are familiar with.
     
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