Radiological Health Physics Option

Radiological health physics 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.

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A graduate of this curriculum would enter the profession of health physics, which is devoted to the protection of human beings and their environment from radiation hazards, 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 incorporates an understanding of many disciplines. It has common scientific interests with many areas of specialization: biophysics, physics, biochemistry, chemistry, biology, genetics, ecology, nuclear engineering, metallurgy, medicine, physiology, and toxicology. Other aspects of the profession include 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.

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 radioactive materials; the military services; electric utilities operating nuclear power plants; businesses 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 service installations that do not employ full-time health physicists.

Scholarships are available for undergraduate students who choose the Radiological Health Physics Option. These are available from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the Department of Energy, the Health Physics Society, the National Academy for Nuclear Training, and other organizations concerned with radiation protection. All students in the Radiological Health Physics Option who have completed the required sophomore year courses currently receive a $500 scholarship from funds donated by Northeast Utilities Service Company of Hartford, Connecticut. These scholarships have been sponsored to attract highly qualified young men and women into the much needed field of radiation protection sciences.

The Radiological Health Physics students enjoy excellent job opportunities and challenging careers in the radiation protection field upon graduation. Students may gain valuable applied work experience while also earning much needed money through various summer internship programs at the University of Massachusetts Lowell. They also may gain experience and academic credit through an internship course at the University 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. The academic and job experience that the students receive provide excellent preparation for either an applied health physics position or the pursuit of an advanced degree in radiation protection or related fields. The University of Massachusetts Lowell offers, as well as the BS program, both M.S. and Ph.D. programs in radiological sciences and protection and receives research and scholarship support from government and industry. Radiological Health Physics graduates at all degree levels are receiving many high-salaried job opportunities.