Medical Physics Graduate Programs

Master of Science in Medical Physics

female at computer Penn’s master's degree in medical physics prepares students to bridge physics and clinical medicine, overseeing clinical applications of radiation and creating the cutting-edge medical technologies of tomorrow. The program is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Medical Physics Education Programs (CAMPEP). As a full-time student, you can complete the master's program in two years.  During the program, you gain the clinical experience necessary to apply for residencies and move into clinical practice as well as research experience should you desire to pursue a PhD degree.

Students also have the opportunity to do part-time clinical work in the University of Pennsylvania Health System to gain relevant clinical experience while earning an hourly wage.

Curriculum

The master's curriculum integrates theory, research, cutting-edge clinical application, and medical ethics training to prepare you for a career as an innovative leader in medical physics. As you learn new theories and techniques, you put them into practice at our world-class medical facilities.

As you become more familiar with the diverse branches of medical physics available, you have the opportunity to follow your interests and explore your passion further by focusing your coursework in a subspecialty of medical physics and completing a year-long, faculty-mentored research project.

The master's degree is 15 course units (CUs)* at the graduate level. Part-time study is possible. The program is typically completed full-time in two academic years and one summer term:

  Fall Term Spring Term Summer Term
Year 1

Introduction to Radiation Protection (.5 CU)

Radiological Physics (1 CU)

Image-Based Anatomy (1 CU), required by the American Board of Radiology

Physics of Medical/Molecular Imaging (1 CU)

Professional Development Seminar (0 CU)

Medical Ethics/Governmental Regulation (.5 CU)

Physics of Radiation Therapy (1 CU)

Radiation Biology (1 CU), required by the American Board of Radiology

Radiation Detection and Measurement (1 CU)

Professional Development Seminar (0 CU)

 

Clinical Practicum (1 CU)
Year 2

Biomedical Image Analysis (1 CU)

Computational Medical Physics (1 CU)

Thesis Research (1 CU)

Elective (1 CU)

Medical Physics Laboratory (1 CU)

Thesis Research (1 CU)

Elective (1 CU)

 

 

Program Highlights

Professional Development and Career Mentoring

Our unique Professional Development Seminar course is a required, year-long, non-credit series of presentations and panel discussions designed to prepare you for success as a medical physicist.  It introduces you to the subspecialties of medical physics:  radiation oncology, diagnostic imaging, nuclear medicine, and medical health physics. Our scholars and practitioners of medical physics discuss possible career paths, new treatments and devices, and other topics from the front lines of the medical physics world. It introduces you to ideas and possibilities beyond the scope of your classes and creates the possibility for networking and finding your ideal career direction. 

The Professional Development Seminar also prepares all our students for success in the medical physics residency application and match process. Students learn from faculty and medical physics residents how to assemble an impressive application for residency including an effective resume / CV, selection of references, and compelling personal statement. We provide tips to master the residency interview process and connect students with program alumni who provide further insight during the interview process. 

The course also helps you to develop the professional skills and competencies you need as a medical physicist.  You learn best practices to work productively on teams; communicate effectively with doctors, patients, and administrators; write scientific abstracts; give oral presentations; and hone leadership skills. We provide advice on how to strategically approach the American Board of Radiology Part I Exam. Our series also features networking events with program alumni, faculty, and staff to further your involvement with our medical physics community.

Through our Career Mentor Program, each incoming student is paired with a faculty or staff physicist from the Department of Radiation Oncology who will offer career advice, provide feedback on your residency or graduate school application, and conduct a practice interview during your time in the program.

Clinical Practicum

The clinical practicum, typically completed during the summer after the first year of study, gives students a practical experience in various aspects of medical physics. Taking place in a clinical setting, the practicum is designed to give you a better understanding of the clinical responsibilities of medical physicists, including instrumentation methodology, calibration, treatment planning and quality assurance. Students may choose a practicum focusing on radiation therapy, diagnostic imaging, radiation safety or nuclear medicine. The program offers many choices of clinical practicum sites—large university health systems and smaller, private hospitals—at which qualified medical physicists supervise you while you spend 2 - 3 days per week onsite gaining valuable clinical experience. 

Thesis 

male doing researchYou will complete a faculty-mentored, applied research project of your own design, culminating in a paper and presentation. The project challenges you to bring together your skills and understanding in the area of medical physics most fascinating to you. It defines your time in the MSMP program to future employers and often serves as a springboard to your residency or further graduate study.

There are a variety of opportunities based on the incredible resources available at Penn.  Sample student projects include:

  • Improvements of fluorescent imaging of tumors
  • Impact analysis of anatomical shifts in proton therapy
  • Characterizing a phosphor-based optical fiber scintillator for use in dosimetry
  • Optimizing radiation planning for glioblastoma through multi-modality MRI analysis and machine learning
  • Validation and development of diffuse tensor imaging (DTI) methods for patients receiving skull base and brain radiation
  • Neutron dosimetry: classifying scattered neutron dose during proton therapy
  • Single angle DRR matching (2D) for SBRT alignment verification
  • Virtual patient specific proton QA

We encourage students to publish their research results and present findings at professional conferences, and we provide financial support with small travel grants. Students have been selected to give oral or poster presentations at:

  • American Association of Physicists in Medicine (AAPM) Annual Meeting
  • American Association of Physicists in Medicine (AAPM) - Delaware Valley Chapter
  • American Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology (ASTRO) Annual Meeting
  • International Union for Physical and Engineering Sciences in Medicine (IUPSEM) World Congress
  • Particle Therapy Co-Operative Group (PTCOG) Annual Conference
  • Society for Nuclear Medicine and Medical Imaging (SNMMI) Conference
  • International Symposium Stereotactic Radiosurgery/Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy (SRS/SBRT)

Elective courses 

The elective courses are an opportunity for you to bolster your learning in the area of your particular clinical concentration, or perhaps broaden your scope to include and explore a new subject. Choices may include:

  • Data Science
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Machine Learning
  • Biostatistics
  • Molecular Imaging
  • Biological Physics
  • Optics
  • Cancer Biology
  • MRI Techniques
  • Quantitative Image Analysis
  • Independent research study or clinical project
  • Other courses as approved by the Program Director

*A CU (or a fraction of a CU) represents different types of academic work across different types of academic programs and is the basic unit of progress toward a degree. One course unit (CU) is typically equivalent to 3 credits at another institution.


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