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Physics in Biology/Medicine

  1. Feb 24, 2009 #1
    I am fairly certain that after I complete my undergrad I want to go to medical school. My question is which physics classes are most applicable to a biology/medicine environment. I really enjoy physics and would take all the classes if I could, but I do not have enough time to complete them all so if you could comment on the ones that might be the most useful that would be helpful.

    Electromagnetic Waves and Optics
    Advanced Mechanics
    Solid-State Physics
    Quantum Mechanics
    Thermal and Statistical Physics

    Again I realize that very little that is taught in these classes will have direct applications in biology/medicine, but I feel like there are possibilities in medical imaging, signal transduction, genetic engineering, etc. Also, if there are other opportunities to use physics/biophysics in medicine please let me know.
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 24, 2009 #2


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    Definitely electromagnetism first - it's used in EEG, MEG, fMRI, Hodgkin-Huxley etc.

    After that maybe statistical physics: http://web.mit.edu/8.592/www/.
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 24, 2017
  4. Feb 24, 2009 #3


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    Medical imaging definitely involves a ton of important physics coming from electromagnetics, quantum mechanics, and other areas of physics. In terms of medical research, E&M is also important for some of the techniques in neurobiology (electrophysiology). More recently, people have begun integrating a physics way of thinking in medical research fields like signal transduction and systems neuroscience, where researchers build mathematical/physical models to try and understand the complex interactions between molecules in a signal transduction cascade (or even multiple signaling pathways in a cell) or neurons in a behavioral circuit.
  5. Feb 24, 2009 #4


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    Like anything else, the more you know, the better.

    I would agree that an E&M and optics course would be beneficial. If you could get in on an imaging course that would be helpful if you had any aspirations of going into radiology or simply want the images you have to look at come from something more than just a black box with a fancy acronym. Quantum has lots of biological implications such as those in biophysics and pharmacokinetics (figuring out how drugs and biological molecules interact), spin-spin and spin-lattice interactions that determine T2 and T1 relaxation times in MRI, and you can even get into the hand-wavy consciousness stuff that Roger Penrose and Stuart Hammeroff (an anesthesiologist) have written about.
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