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MS in Medical Physics do I have a chance?

  1. Sep 29, 2011 #1
    More questions about potential new careers for me. I'll lay out some quick background about me.

    I have a BS and MS in chemistry and currently working as an organic chemist (2.5 yrs, in pharmacuticals). To put it simply, I want out of it. I had originally written off medical physics a few years ago. I was super interested in a PhD but after talking to a professor in a related field (who I though new about this stuff) I was told there was very little chance of me actually getting a residency after the PhD. I've been looking into it a bit more and looking at MS programs this time. It seems that the residency part is a concern but not enough to really worry about?

    So the big question I have is do I have a shot at getting into a MS program? I'm specifically looking at the University of Kentucky because I've heard good stuff about the MS program and I'll be moving with my girlfriend who is a horse vet (tons of jobs out there for her).

    Here's a bit of my academic details. I finished my BS with a 3.01 gpa and did a math minor. I took math up through differential equations and took a 4xxx course in Fourier transforms. I finished my MS with a 3.85 gpa and I did a ton of work on NMR to the point where I was the department expert on it. I was actually offered the job of the then retiring instrument manager (I turned it down). My grad research was in lanthanide MRI contrast reagents and I got a first author paper in a pretty decent journal on a new contrast reagent that I made. I really loved the research and I looked/networked a lot to try and get a job in NMR. Couldn't find anything and that led me to my current job.

    I know these programs are super competitive so I'm worried my BS grades are going to keep me out. What do you guys think?

    EDIT: I also forgot to add that I did a bunch of my research (two more publications) in X-ray crystallography. Not totally related but I do know my way around an X-ray source.
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  3. Sep 30, 2011 #2


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    Generally to get into an accredited medical physics program you need a degree in physics "or equivalent" just to apply. From what you've said, it sounds like you would qualify for the "or equivalent" category. I can't say whether or not you will be granted a spot at any particular school, but based on the information you've provdided it's completely reasonable for you to apply. You could always contact the department in question with specific questions.

    Residency and junior physicist positions are very competative right now. My personal feeling is that's more a symptom of the general economic times than anything else and it's going to improve with time.
  4. Sep 30, 2011 #3
    I came from the University of Kentucky's program and would be happy to answer any questions you have.

    Your experience sounds more in line with imaging physics. Are you interested in a career in clinical therapeutic physics? That is where Kentucky's strength is in my opinion. Though I do know of a recent student who is gainfully employed in clinical diagnostic physics.
  5. Sep 30, 2011 #4
    Thanks, I'll email the program and see what they think. I feel like I probably fall in that "equivalent" category but I'm sure they get tons of perfect applicants. Honestly I think it's a long shot. I'm already preparing for the GRE for engineering programs so it's just a matter of filling out another application.
  6. Sep 30, 2011 #5
    Imaging is certainly where I have the most knowledge. I'm not too sure what clinical therapeutic physics is so I can't say I'm not interested. Actually I don't know anything about the specific sub-disciplines. I need to do a bit more research into this before I can ask any intelligent questions. Maybe some general questions I've been trying to find answers to for now:

    What do you think about getting into a residency program? This was what scared me away from it years ago. I heard a story from the professor I spoke with about a PhD grad who did very well in grad school but was denied for every residency he applied to. He ended up having to take a postdoc instead. Is it something I should be really concerned about?

    I'm trying to figure out what my chances might be. Is my background consistent with what you know about other students that were in the program? I get the impression that schools get tons of very well qualified physics grads.

    Thanks for the help!
  7. Sep 30, 2011 #6
    May I ask what physics courses you have taken?

    Most applicants tend to have a pure physics background, or a background in something closely related such as nuclear engineering. When I was a student it seemed like the department was willing to interview and give tours to anyone interested in the program, so if you are close by it couldn't hurt to send an email along to the DGS (who happens to have a Ph.D. in Chemistry) and ask for a good time to call and talk for a few minutes about the program. When you get someone on the phone tell them a little about yourself and your interest in the program and ask if it would be possible to visit the department. The best way to get a feel for your chances would be to talk to those making the admission decisions.

    If your interest lies in therapeutic physics then the good news is that new residencies are forming and becoming accredited each year, including residencies outside of major academic centers which may be more open to M.S. level applicants (as opposed to the traditionally preferred Ph.D. applicants). Kansas City Cancer Center, for example, seems to have an excellent clinical residency and is not affiliated with any academic institutions.

    Unfortunately opportunities don't seem to be growing as rapidly in imaging physics. Refer to the link below for a list of currently accredited residency programs:

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