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Physics Physics for Premed ?

  1. Oct 3, 2008 #1
    I'm currently doing my last year of high school (A-Levels), and after i graduate I plan on studying medicine.

    In Canada, all med schools require a minimum of 3 years of undergraduate study. This is where I can't really make up my mind, since I would like to pursue a degree in physics before going to med school, but it would obviously be better to study biology or any other of the life sciences so that later on they can assist me with my medical studies.

    That is if I get accepted to med school. In the case that I don't I wouldn't want to end up with a biology degree and further studies in the field doesn't really interest me. On the contrary to physics, which I enjoy.

    Therefore, I have considered taking molecular biophysics. Engineering occurred to me, but I was told by a professor at McGill that the program is very demanding and that I'm better off taking something that shares certain similarities with medicine (biology....).

    Does biophysics have many research opportunities? and jobs?
    And how about plasma physics?

    I would really appreciate all your input.

    thank you.
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 3, 2008 #2
    I can answer plasma physics. It's a relatively small field right now, but it's a field that's likely to become more and more relevant over the next few decades because of increasing concerns over energy. This means that it will become better funded (the US zeroing funding for ITER this year aside) and many job opportunities will surface. Fusion isn't the only thing plasma physics is about, but it's probably the most visible area of plasma physics research today.
  4. Oct 3, 2008 #3
    Thank you very much for sharing.
    The only thing I know about plasma physics is Fusion, and as you mentioned its a new field and has many research opportunities.

    I would really like to engage in research during my undergraduate level, I know that I should expect more reasearch at graduate, but do you know of any other areas in Physics that are research intensive?
  5. Oct 16, 2008 #4
    At Ohio State I've heard that the physics program has a better track record of getting students in than bio. Take this with a grain of salt, because it is all hear-say, but I've heard basically this:

    Med schools have bio kids coming out of their ears. You need to take the Bio, Chem, O-Chem, etc to do well on the MCAT (not sure if _you_ have to do that). The physics required is very minimal, a year long algebra based course will suffice. On the other hand, having a physics major with time spent working with a research group (esp in biophysics) shows a bit of scientific maturity and gives the program a student who brings a different experience to their program.

    If your priorities are such that you're a physics major first, who intends to go to medical school and so is branching out into bio, chem, ochem... etc. You'll be fine. If you just want to get into medical school and everything else is an obstacle, this path may be a bit much.
  6. Oct 16, 2008 #5

    My friend is in medical school right now (here in the US) and he did his BS in Physics, he just took the required chemistry and biology courses in addition to his regular curriculum.

    Another field you may want to look into is nuclear engineering, it has a lot of physics in it, and has good income potential if you dont get into med school. if you do get in, it provides a good background for radiology or radiation oncology fields. if i were going into med school i would have done this
  7. Oct 17, 2008 #6
    Well it's good to know that a physics degree can get you in to med school with the right grades. About the required courses, that's another issue, since I'm not quite sure which med school I'm interested in. They tend to be very competitive so I will be keeping my options open to any med school that would accept me. The application procedure is long and tiring and requires time.

    Sure nuclear engineering is great, but does it follow the physics department of the engineering faculty?

    And while I'm doing my physics degree do i get to choose my field in the last years or is it early on?

    note: I'm planning on studying at the University of Toronto, McGill or Waterloo (all in Canda)

  8. Oct 17, 2008 #7


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    In general you get to choose your "field" when you enter grad school. Many schools offer specializations in undergrad, but I think at that level keeping it general is best so that you have the opportunity to explore all options that are available.
  9. Oct 17, 2008 #8
    well in america you need the following requirements for medical school:

    1 yr of biology
    1 yr of general chemistry
    1 yr of organic chemistry
    1 yr of physics, does not need to be calculus based
    calculus 1

    sufficient score on the MCAT exam

    my friend basically had to add the biology and chemistry courses to his curriculum. i also know another guy who went into radiology, he was originally trying to get his PhD in physics, but the particle accelerator that he needed for his thesis defense was closed down shortly before his defense date.

    professors here actually stated that engineers and physicists do better on the MCAT because of their continued use of higher math (beyond calculus 1) as well as training in calculus based physics

    nuclear engineering has a lot of physics in it....i don't exactly know your question, but take a look at these links of curricula, you can do a comparison:

    Physics (scroll down to "Specialized curriculum in Physics", this does not include general education requirements such as english and social sciences, those would be under 'free electives)

    http://courses.uiuc.edu/cis/programs/urbana/2008/fall/undergrad/las/physics.html [Broken]

    Nuclear, Plasma, and Radiological Engineering

    http://courses.uiuc.edu/cis/programs/urbana/2008/fall/undergrad/engin/npre.html [Broken]
    radiological sciences concentration:
    http://www.ne.uiuc.edu/ugcurriculum.html#3 [Broken]

    There are tons of options other than these, many Electrical Engineers concentrate in Bioengineering (MRI applications, etc) and go to med school as well, EE can also be quite physics based, not quantum like Nuclear, but more Electromagnetics

    Also, some schools have programs in Biophysics, as well as Biomechanics (i can post curriculum if you'd like, but you are in canada so you may just want to check with schools there)

    Northwestern University has a concentration in Biomedical Physics:

    Loyola University offers a degree in Biophysics:
    Last edited by a moderator: May 3, 2017
  10. Oct 20, 2008 #9


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    As long as you take the pre-med required courses, you can major in anything you enjoy. I'd suggest finding the time to take additional biology courses if you have time for some elective credits, just because it will make it easier to learn the material in med school if you're not spending the time just catching up. It also is a different style of studying for biology based courses than physics based courses (something one of my current students who has a physics major is learning), so having a few extra biology courses under your belt will help with that. If you have time for extra courses, I'd strongly recommend a biochemistry or physiology course. Those are the subjects students struggle with the most, so if you have seen those subjects at least once before med school, it'll make it easier to keep up with the pace in med school.
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