College of Sciences

Radiological Sciences and Protection

The Profession of Radiological Health Physics

Radiological Health Physics (RHP) involves the study of the effects of radiation and radioactivity on life processes.  It also can be called radiation protection science and is particularly involved with the effects of radiation on the human body and the control of such radiation. 

Many graduates of this curriculum at the University of Massachusetts Lowell (UML) enter the profession of health physics, which is devoted to the protection of man and the environment from the harmful effects of radiation while at the same time making it possible for our advancing civilization to enjoy all of the benefits resulting from uses of radiation. 

Radiation control in its professional aspects requires the skills and knowledge from many disciplines. It has common scientific interests with many areas of specialization: biophysics, physics, biochemistry, chemistry, biology, genetics, ecology, nuclear engineering, metallurgy, medicine, physiology, industrial hygiene, and toxicology. 

Other aspects of the profession include a working knowledge of labor relations, public relations, teaching, philosophy, and administration. The wide spectrum of knowledge required of the health physicist makes this profession both challenging and rewarding.

The Profession of Medical Physics

Medical Physics (MP) involves the application of physics to the diagnosis and treatment of disease.  The use of radiation producing devices and radioactivity in medical physics is extensive.  Many graduates of the Radiological Sciences and Protection curriculum at the University of Massachusetts Lowell (UML) enter the profession of medical physics. Graduate students who intend to enter this profession are encouraged to seek internships and research venues at nearby hospitals for which they can receive graduate credit towards the master’s degree.

Employment and Scholarship Opportunities

Health physicists are employed by federal agencies (such as the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and Department of Energy) at

  • research, production, and testing facilities;
  • state, and local government agencies responsible for regulating the use of radiation sources and radioactive materials;
  • the military services;
  • electric utilities operating nuclear power plants and many related industries such as engineering support companies;
  • industries which use radioisotopes or x-ray equipment to detect flaws or defects in manufactured products, prepare or reprocess nuclear fuels, control nuclear wastes, or produce or use radioactive materials or devices;
  • universities (in teaching, research, and equipment monitoring);
  • hospitals and medical centers that use radionuclides, x-ray equipment, and accelerators in the diagnosis and treatment of patients; and
  • consulting firms which advise the organizations that do not employ full-time health physicists.

Scholarships are available for graduate students who choose the Radiological Sciences Program. These are available from

  • the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC),
  • the Department of Energy (DOE),
  • the National Academy for Nuclear Training,
  • the Health Physics Society (HPS),
  • the American Nuclear Society (ANS), and
  • other organizations concerned with radiation protection. 

Teaching Assistantships and Research Assistantships are available on a limited basis for UML graduate students.

Students may gain valuable applied work experience while also earning graduate credit and money through various summer internship programs.  They also may gain experience and academic credit through an internship course at the UML Radiation Laboratory.  This course is conducted under the direction of the health physics staff who have responsibility for the radiation safety programs at the nuclear reactor facility; accelerator facility, radioisotope research laboratories and x-ray facilities at the University of Massachusetts Lowell.