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Medical Physics

Overview and Program Goals

The University of Massachusetts Lowell’s Department of Physics and Applied Physics offers M.S. and Ph.D degrees in Medical Physics, both accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Medical Physics Educational Program (CAMPEP). In collaboration with local and regional hospitals and cancer centers in the Boston area, the program is designed for individuals who wish to be educated in therapeutic and imaging medical physics.

Students gain education and training in radiation sciences, radiation protection, medical applications of radiation, and dosimetry, which includes laboratory work and clinical internship. The MS program duration is designed to be two years plus one summer semester, although the typical academic plan may be different due to elective courses and the length of thesis research. The duration of the Ph.D. program depends on the student’s academic progress, and it is usually between four and six years. Both the M.S. thesis and Ph.D. dissertation must be based on hypothesis- or development-driven research, and the student is expected to submit the results to a peer-reviewed journal.

Program Objectives

The MS Degree in Medical Physics qualifies students for all medical physics specialties and prepares them for residency programs, junior medical physicist positions, and future ABR exams. The clinical component provides the students with training dominantly in radiation therapy, but diagnostic imaging traineeships are also available.

The Ph.D. degree program provides the students with fundamental knowledge of physics with a specialization in medical physics. Students receive advanced research training in particular areas of medical physics, which will prepare them for entry-level research positions in academia or industry, or for a medical physics resident position under the supervision of a board-certified medical physicist.

Students in the Program qualify for and are expected to take ABR exam Part-1 by the second or third year of their study. Historically, most students have concentrated on therapy physics but because faculty and the cooperating hospitals also have imaging and nuclear medicine research projects, over the last decade a number of students have focused on other medical physics specialties as well.

Upon graduation, medical physics students are prepared to receive advanced clinical training through working under the direction of a board-certified medical physicist or entering a medical physics residency program. The students will be prepared for a career as:

  • A professional clinical medical physicist.
  • A medical physicist in a research laboratory.
  • A medical physicist in industry.
  • For Ph.D. students, career as a medical physicist in an academic environment.
  • For MS students, further research training in a Ph.D. medical physics program.

Qualification for Admission

Applicants are expected to have a strong foundation in physics, documented by either a degree in physics or in a related engineering or physical science with the following undergraduate coursework at the minimum:

  • Physics (required): Core calculus-based physics courses, typically equivalent to a minor in physics, including two semesters of general physics plus upper level Classical Mechanics, Electricity and Magnetism, Quantum Mechanics (preferred) or Modern Physics (accepted), and Electronics or other advanced laboratory;
  • Mathematics (required): Three semesters of calculus and one semester of differential equations;
  • Anatomy (required): One semester of undergraduate-level human anatomy. A course in anatomy and physiology is preferred.
  • Computer Science (strongly preferred): Competency in a scientific/engineering programming language and knowledge of fundamental numerical methods;
  • Chemistry (preferred): Two semesters of general chemistry;
  • Biology (preferred): One semester of general biology;
  • Anatomy (preferred): One semester of human anatomy. Although anatomy is not a requirement for admission, completion of an appropriate anatomy course is a requirement before graduation.

Successful applicants typically have an undergraduate major in physics, engineering, or a similar technical field. Students with other undergraduate degrees may be accepted if the prerequisite coursework is satisfied. Applicants with minor deficiencies, such as the undergraduate anatomy course, may be admitted with the provision of satisfying the prerequisite during the first year of graduate study. In cases when many prerequisite courses are lacking, we recommend that the student satisfactorily complete these courses before embarking on graduate studies in Medical Physics.

The application deadline is normally the first day of February. Further information on the graduate admission process, including an online application form, may be accessed at the UMass Lowell Graduate Admission website.

Programs of Study

Master of Science in Medical Physics 

The MS Degree in Medical Physics requires 31 hours of didactic courses, 2 hours of clinical training (counting as laboratory courses), and a thesis of publishable quality that includes a minimum of 6 hours of thesis research. Elective courses may be taken to meet particular educational needs, especially for the student’s research. 

Doctor of Philosophy in Medical Science 

The Ph.D. program in Medical Physics is an Applied Physics Option in the Department of Physics, and it offers an en-route MS degree option: Students who entered the program with a BS or non-Medical Physics MS degree and pass the Comprehensive Examination may be eligible for the MS degree in Medical Physics if they have satisfied the relevant MS degree requirements as detailed above. Detailed description of the programs of study is published each year by the Department of Physics and Applied Physics, which includes the Medical Physics Programs, and it is available from the Physics Graduate Coordinator. For further information, the Medical Physics Program can be reached at: MED_PHYS@uml.edu.

Medical Physics and Radiological Science Faculty, Research and Resources