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Top Medical Physics Graduate Programs

  1. Apr 24, 2005 #1
    I am almost done with my junior year at a top 15 liberal arts college. I'm majoring in physics with an overall gpa of 3.5 which I hope to pull to a 3.6 by graduation. My physics gpa is about 3.85. I am interested in attending a top school to do medical physics. Duke, UChicago,UW-Madison, and UC-Berkeley would be my top picks. I'm expecting 2 awesome recommendations and one thats good but will probably not rave about me. I've done research in physics and will be doing medical physics research at Duke this summer. I also intend to write the GREs this summer. What do you think are my chances of getting in? Will it help if I write a thesis? I wasn't going to because none of the professors here do research that is in anyway related to medical physics. I've also done a lot of stuff outside the classroom, plenty of leadership and community service. I know this isn't really looked at for graduate admissions but I figure It can never hurt me. How do I improve my chances of getting in? Are these schools even the ones I should be looking at?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 26, 2009 #2
    I came across this post. I'm in a similar situation, but I am actually in a medical physics research group. I was wondering where you ended up and how you enjoy medical physics?
  4. Jul 29, 2009 #3
    Something to keep in mind, which isn't as much of an issue anymore because of the CAMPEP accredation process... but "big name" schools might not be the best for medical physics programs. Going to a smaller school where you get actual clinical experiences may be beneficial to you over going to a "well known" large scale school. Getting a job in the end is all about what people think of graduates from the program, and if the graduates that have come out have come out with all kinds of book smarts but no knowledge of the actual job, it doesn't look good for the program. Medical physics is very different from other areas of Physics. You won't get a job on the name of the school alone, although if the director of the program is respected and it's known that the program produces knowledgeable graduates, then you're better off. In the end, you want to visit schools and talk with students there. A smaller program where you get hands on experience in the clinic (the more the better) is what you want. It's graduate school. Most of the learning is self taught at this point. It's great to learn under a great teacher, but you learn far more in this field by doing the work and studying on your own. There's simply too much information to learn everything in a class. Forget about the top names. Look for a CAMPEP accredited (or soon to be, call a school to find out, many are in the process) school with as MUCH clinic experience as possible. Find out if you will get to actual be responsible for any work (montly QA, planning, etc.) or if you're going to just be watching. Don't get star struck by big name schools - this field is far different from many others that you're probably used to. Go somewhere where you will get good experience.
  5. Jul 29, 2009 #4
    You seem knowledgeable, what programs do you think have good clinical experience?

    Also, Do you know of any programs that are soon to be CAMPEP approved that are closer to the west coast?

    What if I want to go into research rather than the clinic, would that change my game plan? How important is the GRE in Physics?
  6. Jul 30, 2009 #5
    Wanting to do research would probably change your gameplan. I would still think that looking at schools that provide a good clinical component would be beneficial, so you keep your options open if you change your mind in the future. I'm guessing you're looking at getting a phd then instead of a masters? You know, it's funny, how it seems that most medical physics programs are in the middle of the US or towards the east. I'm not sure why that is. I'm from the East coast myself, and I'm mostly familiar with programs out this way. So, sorry for not being too much help. I'm sure you've already been to this site, but here's a link to the CAMPEP accredited schools:


    and the non-campep accredited schools:


    What I would suggest doing is look first at CAMPEP schools, and then if there are some schools in areas you're interested in that are on the NON-CAMPEP list, call or email them. I think it seems, for the most part, that people are usually enthusiastic about their programs and willing to answer questions. So I think you should email or call someone from each school you're intersted in. If they're CAMPEP accredited, just ask them what kind of clinical component they have in their program. Ask how many students there are in the program, how long you're in the clinic (not just length of time (like a few months, half a year, a whole year) but also how many hours per week. There are some places where it's "voluntary" to get clinical experience. You could ask how many students usually get that experience, and what kinds of things you would be doing. As far as research goes, I think it's probably the same as most other fields in physics. I'm sorry, I'm far more knowledgeable on the MS track :) Sorry I couldn't be of more help, but good luck. Medical physics is an awesome field to be a part of! It sounds like you're very enthusiastic about it though, so I'm sure you're going to do fine no matter where you go. Hopefully you end up loving it as much as I have! It's a very rewarding field to be a part of.

    Also, you can subscribe for free to the medical physics listserv. It might not be too informative untill you have more knowledge in the field, but I'm sure some of it would be interesting:


    You can register there as well to see the archive to see what people are talking about.

    Good luck!
  7. Jul 30, 2009 #6


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    With respect to research vs. clinical work: most medical physicists balance the two. The clinical work is essentially what "pays the bills" and it generally takes precedence over research. Some medical physicist positions are completely clinical. Others balance these out. Another other option is going straight into academia without any clinical responsibilities.

    If you're interested in doing research, the Ph.D. route (as opposed to stopping after an M.Sc.) is the way to go, but I would still aim for an accredited program. It keeps more doors open.
  8. Mar 1, 2010 #7
    I guess I am reviving a dead thread here, but I have looked around a lot for good med physics programs rankings and there pretty much aren't any. I'm certainly no expert, but I'll take a crack at it. I would love for someone more knowledgeable to correct me or chime in. My thoughts are more geared toward the residency side of things.

    A good place to start are some rankings for rad onc residencies you can find here: http://more.studentdoctor.net/showthread.php?p=9058698 [Broken]. Not the same as physics residencies or grad schools, but a good start.

    Here are a bunch of great programs with some thoughts on them. They are in some rough order, but not organized enough that I want to number them.

    Harvard/MGH/BWH: Harvard reputation, protons, great upper level faculty.

    MD Anderson: The biggest, baddest cancer center. With Protons.

    Memorial Sloan Kettering: The other biggest cancer center

    Stanford: Smaller department, but top notch people, and Cyberknife experts. Lei Xing is as prolific of a research as you can find.

    Washington University: Great program, most established medical physics residency. Dan Low is a beast of a director, and any program he is in charge of is going to be top notch. Reputation for brutally hard working residents.


    U Michigan: Great. James Balter.

    U Wisconsin: Home of Tomotherapy. Better physics reputation than medical rad onc


    U Chicago: Great history, but feels like it needs a little bit of a refreshing influence

    U Florida: The residents that come out of here are top notch. Protons.

    Penn: Was lagging behind in technology until recently. Now has great new proton center with MLC

    UT Southwestern: Timmerman, Choy, Solberg, Papiez and more. This place has a ton of money and amazing faculty. Up and coming to say the least.

    UC San Diego: Another young department that has been rebuilt by AJ Mundt with the additions of Todd Pawlicki, and Steve Jiang on the physics side. Top level people, resources for expansion, and an attractive location.

    Mayo: Amazing hospital. Current president of AAPM: Michael Herman

    Johns Hopkins



    Fox Chase

    Thomas Jefferson


    UCLA (struggling a bit since Solberg left, but still producing great quality graduate students)



    You can get a great education at any of these places. That's all I have for now. I apologize if I am missing some obvious stars.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  9. Jan 18, 2011 #8
    Sorry for bumping such an old thread but this discussion has popped up in my Google Search Results dozens of times when searching for random medical-physics related terms, for whatever reason.

    Thought I would throw in my two cents.

    I studied medical physics at the University of Kentucky in Lexington, KY. Kentucky has a very long-standing CAMPEP-accredited radiation oncology oriented medical physics Master of Science program that requires two years to complete.

    As far as opportunities for clinical experience go I consider UK to be an excellent option. Technology-wise, UK has 5 Varian linear accelerators spread across the main campus (2) and the three satellite facilities (1 each). There is an active TomoTherapy program as well as a Gamma Knife program at the main campus. There is a very busy HDR and LDR brachytherapy program (gynecological, prostate and other interesting sites and techniques). There is a samarium program. UK is active in IGRT, IMRT, SRS, SBRT and in research (though the program is very much clinically focused you will be required to do research).

    Throughout the program the students will get hands on experience in all aspects of machine quality assurance including annual calibrations. They will complete a lengthy treatment planning rotation that includes everything from basic hand calculations to IMRT. They will be involved in brachytherapy treatment planning and quality assurance. They will also be involved in patient-specific quality assurance such as IMRT QA, TomoTherapy DQA, weekly chart reviews, treatment plan reviews, in vivo dosimetry, etc..

    When I say the students will be "involved" in these things, I mean that they will physically be the ones doing them. They check the charts themselves. They check the treatment plans themselves, they perform QA themselves, they do treatment planning for actual patients being treated, etc.. Of course this is all done under the very close supervision of faculty physicists.

    As far as preparation for the "real world" goes, I can give my experiences. I interviewed for only two jobs before being hired (though I applied to several more). During the interviews I was able to intelligently discuss the field and my responsibilities and I was able to make it obvious that I had plenty of hands on experience (for a new graduate, that is). I left graduate school with a "Clinical Experience and Skills" section on my resume that I was very proud to present to potential employers. I almost never had to answer the question "What experience do you have regarding ____?" with "Well, I've really only read about ____."

    I ended up finding a fantastic, high-paying clinical physics position in a very busy radiation oncology department program that has an active brachytherapy, external beam (including IMRT) and TomoTherapy program. I was able to move into the clinic as a new employee and within my first week was was able to significantly contribute to the productivity of the physics team (which was shorthanded beforehand). The group here is very happy with their selection to hire me and I feel confident and comfortable in the clinic, which is important.

    Having only been through my own graduate program in medical physics I won't try to make comparisons with other programs, but I will say that UK has a long history of producing excellent CLINICAL physicists who go on to have very successful careers. Just wanted to throw that out there because as a school, UK certainly doesn't have the reputation of Harvard or Stanford or MD Anderson, but as far as clinical medical physics is concerned I feel that it deserves some recognition.
  10. Jan 19, 2011 #9
    does medical physics involve too much biology?
  11. Jan 19, 2011 #10


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    That depends on what you define as "too much" biology.

    In general, you learn the biology you need in graduate school. Going in, it helps to have a first year undergraduate course under your belt, but even that isn't manditory. On a clinical level it helps to get some anatomy and physiology, which most programs will cover starting from a basic level. The assumption that most programs work on is that you are coming in with an undergraduate background in physics.

    Once you're in you can delve into radiobiology if you're interested in it, but at that point the level of depth is up to you.
  12. Jan 19, 2011 #11
    Thank you :) this is the only thing i was afraid of and now i'm relieved :)
  13. Feb 20, 2011 #12
    I was wondering if I can get any input on my situation. I am interested in pursuing a masters degree in Medical Physics or in Dosimetry, but am having trouble finding a school that is willing to accept a lower than 3.0 GPA for a bachelors degree ( I came close at 2.9). I have since attended Navy Nuclear Power school and graduated with a 3.66 GPA and am currently enrolled in a Radiation Therapy program holding a 4.0 GPA, and work as an engineer for a major company. It seems as if schools are only looking at my undergraduate GPA and discounting everything I've done since then (I graduated in 2000 and played a varsity sport all 4 years which didn't help study time :) ). Anyone have any advice for me on how to get into a medical physics or dosimetry program? I love the knowledge from my current courses but am pretty sure that therapy isn't where I want to be.
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