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

Need some input

  1. Jul 5, 2010 #1
    So I just completed my first year of Physics at my university. It could have gone a lot better, but I got sick with Crohn's and that really screwed things up. I'm not sure if physics is right for me, so I need input. The thing that makes me really question my self is that all the other physics majors at the university are really into astronomy and theoretical stuff. Me on the other hand have no interest in that.

    In high school, I failed grade 11 physics once (I took it while I was in grade 10). However second time around it wasn't a problem, and I did fine in grade 12 physics (88 percent). So as you can see I'm not the best physics. The only reason I'm a physics major is because Medical Physics really caught my attention because I wanted to do something in the service industry.

    For a job, I for sure want to do something in the service industry. It would be a dream to work in the medical field, which is why I'm going for Medical Physics. However, I struggled my first year and it only gets harder. I've looked into doing other things such as Biology, but I'm scared that it would be harder since I'm no good at memorizing. I love Bio (80 percent in high school), but I'm not sure what kind of jobs I can do with it. It would be too hard to become doctor so that's out of the question. I don't understand Chemistry, but do great at it (97% in high school). So here is a question:

    - Is medical physics one of the harder physics? Where would you rate it in terms of difficulty? Compared to other types of physics? Compared to other jobs (doctor, engineering)?

    Basically I'm not sure what to do with my life. Physics is not a passion, but an interest. I don't know my passion but my hobby is working with Photoshop, and people say I'm great at it and have told me countless times to take that path. Except as a graphic designer I can't see my self enjoying my job since it's more of a hobby and I would enjoy doing something medical. Like I REALLY REALLY REALLY REALLY want to do something medical but question if I'm smart enough.

    So any advice guys?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 6, 2010 #2
    At the undergraduate level most physics will be the same difficulty level. You still take all the same core physics classes, regardless of specialty.

    It sounds like you want to do something in the medical industry, so you should pursue that.

    Most paths to the medical industry are a lot of work whether it be med school, grad school, or just a B.S. in engineering. You still have 3 years to get good grades, so try to stay motivated, study a lot, and get plenty of help.

    If you like chemistry, have you considered pharmaceuticals? You could go to grad school and get involved in research, or go to pharmacy school and become a pharmacist and/or do research.

    If you like math and applied physics, biomedical engineering would be good. And there's always med school if you think you have good chances of getting in.

    Whatever you do, good luck, and I think you should ultimately do what you enjoy most.
  4. Jul 6, 2010 #3


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Education Advisor

    In order to get into medical physics you first need to get a degree in physics. And accredited graduate positions are highly competative, so you need to do well in your undergraduate studies to get in. Further, residency positions are also competative, so you have to do well in your graduate studies, and finally the good professional positions can also be competative.

    It would be a mistake, in my opinion, to pursue it because you think it's easier than other fields of physics. Medical physics is much of an applied branch of physics and in that respect much of the research in the area is a lot like engineering research rather than for example, high energy theoretical physics research.
  5. Jul 6, 2010 #4
    Apparently our city just got its first medical physicist, who will be working closely with our university. So I think the safest way to go is to talk directly to the physicist and some professors. Because to be honest I don't know much about Medical Physics. All I know is that it involves applying physics to treat cancer, and that was enough to get me interested since it combined my two favorite subjects.

    I've talked to one professor and he has told me take as many biology, chemistry, and biochemistry courses during my B.S.

    It would just be nice to see exactly what Medical Physicists do, such as the math and physics involved.

    I'll look into biomedical engineering; not interested in becoming a pharmacist though.

    @ Choppy
    What do you mean by engineering research? I'm looking into Medical Physics because I'm interested in simply applying methods. Is there a lot of research required as a medical physicist?
  6. Jul 7, 2010 #5


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Education Advisor

    Medical physics has different branches. The vast majority of medical physicists (~ 80%) work in radiation oncology, but there are branches in diagnostic imaging and MRI, nuclear medicine, and radiation protection.

    Research isn't always required. Some positions are completely clinical, which means you spend your time doing quality assurance work, evaluating treatment plans, commissioning new equipment, calibrating, developing procedures, and problem solving. Where I work however, medical physicists are required to maintain a research program in addition to holding clinical responsibilities. This kind of research involves things like:
    - developing new radiation detectors
    - radiobiological investigations that look at how cells respond to different types of radiation under different circumstances
    - improving imaging techniques or using imaging modalities in novel ways
    - combining linear accelerators with different imaging modalities like MRI, CT and or PET imagers
    - image fusion techniques
    - clinical trials where you assist physicians with new treatment approaches

    So by 'engineering research' what I mean is that the physics is applied. We're not generally in the business of exploring new fundamental interactions. How medical radiation interacts with matter has been known for years.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook