Medical Physics

The Postgraduate Certificate in Medical Physics provides a year-long professional track for individuals who have earned a PhD in physics. It is offered in partnership with the University of Chicago Committee on Medical Physics and is accredited by CAMPEP, the Commission on Accreditation of Medical Physics Education Programs.

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About the Program

This program is designed to help students with PhDs in physics transition to a medical physics profession. Students who successfully earn the certificate are eligible to enter CAMPEP-accredited residency programs in medical physics that provide the necessary clinical experience required for ABR (American Board of Radiology) certification.

Students will:

  • Attain competency in imaging and radiation physics, related mathematics, and biological principles
  • Obtain hands-on laboratory training with innovators in the field
  • Be eligible to enter CAMPEP-approved residency programs upon completion of the certificate.

Program Structure

The program is a three-quarter-long sequence that fulfills requirements outlined in American Association of Physicists in Medicine Reports 197 and 197S. Students take:

  • One noncredit course
  • Nine credit-bearing courses

Program Curriculum

Autumn Quarter

MPHY 35000 Interaction of Ionizing Radiation with Matter
Ionizing radiation is the basis for radiation therapy and for many diagnostic imaging studies. This course explores the fundamental modes of interaction between ionizing radiation (both electromagnetic and particulate) and matter, with an emphasis on the physics of energy absorption in medical applications. Topics will include exponential attenuation, x-ray production, charged particle equilibrium, cavity theory, dosimetry, and ionization chambers.
MPHY 34900 Mathematics for Medical Physicists
This course focuses on the mathematics that will be used throughout the training of students in the Graduate Programs in Medical Physics. Lectures are given on linear algebra, Fourier analysis, sampling theory, functions of random variables, stochastic processes, estimation theory, signal detection theory, and ROC analysis.
MPHY 35601 Anatomical Structure & Physiological Function of the Human Body
Study of the basic anatomy of the human body as demonstrated from cadavers and correlating diagnostic radiographic imaging. Physiological processes of body systems will be examined with an emphasis on its relationship with imaging.

Winter Quarter

MPHY 35100 Physics of Radiation Therapy
This course covers aspects of radiation physics necessary for understanding modern radiation therapy. Rigorous theoretical foundations of physical dose calculation for megavoltage energy photons and electrons, biological predictions of therapy outcomes, and brachytherapy are presented. Methods of modeling and implementing radiation therapy treatment planning, evaluation, and delivery are described. Emphasis is placed on current developments in the field including intensity modulated radiation therapy. The course is intended to provide comprehensive knowledge of radiation therapy physics enabling the student to grasp current research in the field.
MPHY 34400 Practicum: Physics of Radiation Therapy
This course combines lectures and intensive hands-on experiments. It includes an introduction to thermoluminescent detectors, film and ionization chamber dosimetry, and quality assurance for intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT). Training in data acquisition, error analysis, experimental techniques and the safe handling of sealed radiation sources is also included. The basic concepts in Monte Carlo calculations will be presented and measurements made in simple slab phantoms to compare with MC calculations.
MPHY 35900 Cancer and Radiation Biology
This course provides students with an overview of the biology of cancer and of the current methods used to diagnose and treat the disease. Lectures from faculty throughout the Biological Sciences Division will include presentations on cancer incidence and mortality, cancer prevention, a molecular biology perspective, the role of genetic markers, methods of treatment (radiation, chemotherapy) and prognosis. The course will be primarily for medical physics graduate students.

Spring Quarter

MPHY 39700 Health Physics
This course provides an introduction to fundamental principles of health physics and radiation protection in medical physics environments. A broad spectrum of topics is covered, including but not limited to, radiation detection and measurement, instrumentation, counting statistics, radiation protection criteria, exposure limits and regulations, shielding techniques, monitoring of personnel dose and radiation safety.
MPHY 32000 Overview of the Physics of Medical Imaging
This course is for students in the medical physics certificate program. The course presents a comprehensive overview of physics in medical imaging, covering a wide range of clinical imaging modalities including radiography, fluoroscopy, computed tomography (CT), mammography, ultrasound, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and nuclear medicine imaging. The course will introduce the student to the fundamental principles of clinical radiological imaging as well as cutting-edge diagnostic imaging technology.
MPHY 34100 Bioethics for Medical Physicists
This course explores ethical issues that arise in the practice of medical physics in research, education and clinical settings. Topics include misconduct (fabrication, falsification and plagiarism) and questionable conduct in scientific research; authorship and publication practices; human subject research (informed consent and irb review, patient/subject privacy and confidentiality; quality improvement vs research; vulnerable subjects); history of human radiation experiments and medical physics; research with animals; incidental findings in radiation therapy and imaging research; conflicts of interest; mentorship; professionalism and AAPM code of ethics; ethics of innovative technologies (charged particle therapy); off label uses of radiation; radiation errors and patient safety; ethics of radiation protection, optimization and justification of medical radiation exposure in therapy and imaging. The course aims to increase students’ awareness of ethical issues they might face as medical physicists and to help them, through case discussions, better recognize, analyze and resolve ethical issues, conflicts and dilemmas.
Statistical Concepts for Clinical Research (NC)
This course introduces basic statistical concepts, such as hypothesis testing, the meaning of P value, and power determination. Other concepts with particular relevance to clinical research design and monitoring-such as the importance of randomization and randomization procedures, stratification, crossover designs, non-randomized concurrent control studies, and the use of historical controls-will also be introduced.

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Application Requirements

To complete an application, students must:

  • Hold a PhD in physics from an American or Canadian university with minimum 3.0 GPA
  • Complete the online application
  • Write a statement of purpose
  • Supply a resume/CV
  • Include official transcripts from all undergraduate and graduate institutions attended
  • Submit two letters of recommendation
  • Pay a $55 non-refundable application fee

Questions regarding these requirements can be directed to Hania Al-Hallaq.

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Please visit our Graduate Student Checklist for a list of actions to take after admission to the program. Visit the Graham School’s Student Resources page to discover numerous student-life related resources and publications.