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Interested & Need Advice: Medical Physics

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TJh
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Hello,

My name is TJ, and I'm currently in my second semester of undergraduate physics.

I'm interested in pursuing a career in medical physics, and would like to know where I could get related experience even though I'm only an undergrad currently. I haven't started any research, but I was thinking about pursuing nuclear or biophysics. Is this the closest I can get to medical physics related in my undergrad?

Besides doing well academically, how do I make myself competitive when I eventually apply to a medical physics program after my bachelors?

I heard there are a couple of different "routes"... there are medical physicists who deal with patients and then there's medical physics researchers. Are there any medical physicists on the forum? If so, could you tell me a day in your life, what you like about your career, and what you hate about it? I'm open to both routes, but don't have very much first hand information about either.
 
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  • #3
Choppy
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I haven't started any research, but I was thinking about pursuing nuclear or biophysics. Is this the closest I can get to medical physics related in my undergrad?
This depends on where you are, I suppose. If you're attending a university that has a medical physics program, it shouldn't be too difficult to find some kind of medical physics specific project to get involved in. But I wouldn't sweat it if you don't get into one. The point is to get some research experience at some point. If nuclear or biophysics options are available to you - fantastic! Go with whatever project you find the most interesting. In most cases potential graduate students aren't assessed on the specifics of a project that they've worked on, rather on how well that did when working on the projects they had.

Besides doing well academically, how do I make myself competitive when I eventually apply to a medical physics program after my bachelors?
There's no great secret out there. GPA tends to be in the driver's seat. If you can get involved with some research, that's great. See above. Good things to have are publications or conference presentations (posters or talks) because those are objective evidence that you can be a part of a productive research team. Reference letters are very important too. Rather than generic "this was a good student" you want your professors to be able to point to specific examples of why you would make a good graduate student... problems you solved in the lab, code you wrote, procedures you developed, cases where you demonstrated initiative, etc.

I heard there are a couple of different "routes"... there are medical physicists who deal with patients and then there's medical physics researchers.
Medical physics is a clinical profession. In that sense most medical physicists are primarily clinical physicists (i.e. working with patients) and most of those work in radiation oncology - though if you read the link above there are other branches in diagnostic imaging, MRI, and nuclear medicine. There are some academics whose primary research interests are in medical physics, but don't do any clinical work. Those are few and far between. Most medical physicists are clinical, but can do research on the side. The degree of how much research depends on the specifics of your employment. If you work at a larger research cancer centre, you might get a certain amount of protected research time. At a smaller clinical centre, you can still do research, but it tends to happen after hours.

Are there any medical physicists on the forum? If so, could you tell me a day in your life, what you like about your career, and what you hate about it? I'm open to both routes, but don't have very much first hand information about either.
That's a tall order... there's a lot to like: a sense that you're doing meaningful work, opportunities to do research, working with a lot of different people. I don't 'hate' anything about it, but that's not to say that medical physics isn't without its challenges. Medical physics can be very stressful at times, particularly when you're a student or resident or when you've got a deadline to meet such as commissioning a new linear accelerator by a certain date. Often the hours can be long and in many places there's certain things that can only be done after hours or on the weekends.
 
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