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Undergrad requirements for Medical Physics

  1. Sep 2, 2012 #1


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    I'm an undergrad in engineering physics and I'm thinking about becoming a medical physicist. Do I need to have a biology or anatomy course before applying to a PhD program, and if so, which one is best to have?

    Also, since medical physics internships seem pretty rare, what other kinds of internships would be useful? I've spent a few days job-shadowing a medical physicist but he's in a private hospital that isn't really set up for a longer internship.

    Finally, would undergrad research be useful or is there something else I should be doing in my spare time?

    I'd appreciate any advice. Not too many people at my tech school know much about this field so I'm trying to figure it out on my own.
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 2, 2012 #2


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    In general you don't "need" either, but each program has it's own requirements, so it's worth browsing the specific entrance requirements for the schools you think you may be interested in.

    That said, I think it's highly advantageous to come in with a general understanding of cellular processes such as the cell cycle and mitosis at a first-year undergraduate level as the graduate radiobiology course builds on this. You can learn it as you go, but I'd rather be spending my time reading up on the interesting stuff rather than reviewing the basics by the time I'm doing the course. I would offer more-or-less the same advice for anatomy and physiology. It will certainly help to have a background in it when you start, but most medical physics programs that I'm familiar with assume that you don't have it when you're admitted.

    If I had to chose between the two, I'd go with biology, but that's not a strong recommendation - just my opinion if you've got a slot to fill and you're really on the fence.

    I think the AAPM actually offers financial support for a few undergrads to take on medical physics positions every year. It's worth looking up if you're interested.

    Related things you could try would include radiation safety or health physics offices. These would be big at, for example nuclear plants, or radioisotope production facilities.

    Anyting related to medical imaging is good as well. I'm not sure exactly what's out there, but it might be worth looking into summer interships with some of the big guns like Phillips or GE - or even some of the smaller guns. (Look up the vendor list for RSNA).

    Absolutely. It doesn't have to be in medical physics either. Just like any other branch of physics, experience in research can bolster your application by allowing you to develop additional skill outside of your formal academic training, and just by giving your referees something more substantial to talk about on their reference letters.
  4. Sep 4, 2012 #3
  5. Sep 4, 2012 #4


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    Good... I think I stand a lot better chance of getting biology worked in to my schedule, since there are so many class sections of it as compared to the rest.

    I saw the AAPM internships on their website, but there were only about five, so I thought I should look around for alternatives. That's a good idea about RSNA, thanks. We have a couple of big job & internship fairs each year so I could cross-reference with some of those companies.

    Good, I had planned to do senior research/design with a prof in nuclear physics, but as I mentioned, medical physics is not really an option right here at my school.

    Also, I'm not 100% sure about medical physics so it's great to hear that internships/research in related areas would be helpful.

    Thanks a lot for your advice, esp. about the internships. It sounds like I'm on the right track but it seems like medical physics is getting more competitive and the requirements more strict than they used to be, plus my schedule is pretty tight... so I just didn't want to accidentally screw it up.
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