Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Medical physics: undergraduate approach

  1. Nov 15, 2014 #1
    Hello all,

    I have a strong interest in nuclear science, especially medical physics, and I'll soon be transferring from a community college to a university that has, I believe, a very strong nuclear engineering department. Will undergraduate study in nuclear engineering or physics provide a more solid foundation for a medical physics program at the graduate level?

    I'm also open to the possibility of becoming interested in nuclear power or disliking the field altogether, but, being at a community college, I don't have access to introductory NE courses; however, I recently bought Atoms, Radiation, and Radiation Protection by James E. Turner and love it so far.

  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 15, 2014 #2


    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    One might be more interested in Health Physics, or Radiation Health Physics, which is sometimes offered in a Nuclear Engineering program at some schools.

    Usually, this means taking courses in Chemistry and Biology, and perhaps Biochemistry, in order to understand the complex cellular mechanisms, and my radiolysis and ionization are particularly important/significant with respect to cellular chemistry.
  4. Nov 16, 2014 #3


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Education Advisor

    If you've got the option of a double major, physics and biology/biochem would seem to be the best route to me.
  5. Nov 24, 2014 #4


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Education Advisor

    I know a lot more medical physicists who have started with an undergraduate degree in physics than those who have started with an undergraduate degree in nuclear engineering. I don't think that nuclear engineering necessarily closes the door to medical physics though. You might want to inquire if any graduates of the specific nuclear engineering program you're interested in have gone on into medical physics graduate programs.
  6. Nov 24, 2014 #5


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Most undergraduate nuclear engineering courses are going to be focused on core physics and thermohydraulic applications of nuclear reactors. There's only a few courses that I remember taking which would be of particular use to HP fields - one was a radiation & materials course and one was a radiation transport course. It would probably make more sense to go with a biology/chemistry/pre-med degree and just take those particular courses as electives.
  7. Nov 24, 2014 #6


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Education Advisor

    In my experience an undergraduate degree in physics will qualify you for enty into all medical physics programs. A biology/chemistry/pre-med degree will not - even if you have a few electives in physics.
  8. Nov 24, 2014 #7
    Thanks for the replies, everyone.

    Astronuc, the NE department has a radiological concentration available for their undergraduate degree.

    QuantumPion, I'll be transferring with A.S. of chemistry, so I was planning to take some 300 and 400 level chemistry classes, such as biochemistry, as technical electives.

    Choppy, do you think that an NE curriculum will leave me with a knowledge deficit in physics? Is a radiological concentration in NE more tailored to dosimetry; are dosimetry and medical physics vastly different? What kind of entry standards do CAMPEP accredited programs have?
  9. Nov 24, 2014 #8


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Education Advisor

    I can't really say as I'm not particularly familiar with what's covered in a nuclear engineering undergraduate program. I suspect that it would qualify you for most medical physics programs though. I do know that a bachelor's degree in physics definitely qualifies you.

    Again I don't know the details of your particular program or what "radiological concentration" is. "Dosimetry" can also mean different things. In some contexts it can refer to the measurement of radiation dose. In others it can refer to radiation therapy treatment planning. Both are aspects of medical physics, but beyond these a typical medical physics program would also include x-ray-based imaging, MRI, radiobiology, anatomy and physiology, health physics, nuclear medicine, and a grab-bag of other stuff like electronics, computer networks, programing, lab work, etc.

    Probably the best way to figure this out is to go through the list of accredited programs and look up the requirements for any school that you might be interested in attending.
    Accredited programs are supposed to publish basic admissions and graduation statistics.
    Generally speaking, incoming students are expected to have a bachelor's degree in physics or a closely related discipline. My understanding is that in the US there may be a little more flexibility in the details, but this will vary from school to school. Some programs are branches of the physics department and thus, students are required to go through the same qualifying examinations as students in other branches of physics. Other programs are more independent and run through medical or oncology departments.

    GPA requirements are typically set around a 3.0, but competitive applicants typically have GPAs in the 3.5+ range. This again will vary from program to program and year to year and can depend on who else applies to the program.
Know someone interested in this topic? Share this thread via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook

Similar Discussions: Medical physics: undergraduate approach
  1. Medical xray calculater (Replies: 12)