What is Radiological Health Physics?

Radiological Health Physics, or simply Health Physics, is a scientific discipline that involves the study of:

  • Natural and man-made radiation sources
  • Distribution of radioactivity in the environment
  • Radiation detection and measurement
  • Radiation shielding
  • Exposure pathways
  • Metabolism of radioactive substances
  • Effects of radiation on the human body

The discipline of Health Physics, also referred to as the science of radiation protection, is part of the broader discipline of radiological sciences that includes the uses of radiation in medicine.

What do health physics professionals do?

The profession of Health Physics is dedicated to the application of scientific principles for the protection of man and the environment from the harmful effects of radiation.

Health Physics professionals also seek to realize all of the benefits resulting from the uses of radiation, which involves the establishment of radiation dose limits, the implementation of radiation controls, the justification of radiation exposures and the optimization of protection practices.

What skills and knowledge are required for a health physics career?

The profession of Health Physics requires skills and knowledge from many areas of specialization, including: physics, chemistry, biology, physiology, ecology, nuclear engineering, public health, medicine, and industrial hygiene.

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

For more information on the uses of radiation visit the RadiationAnswers.org website.

For more information on the possible Careers in Health Physics visit the Health Physics Society (HPS) student webpage.

What programs does UMass Lowell offer in health physics?

Founded in 1969, the UMass Lowell Radiological Sciences program offers undergraduate, master's, doctoral degrees and certificate programs. We are accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) under the Applied and Natural Science Accreditation Commission.

UMass Lowell has been a leader in Radiological Health Physics education for over fifty years. View highlights from our program history:

  • Image of the reactor pool. The Radiological Sciences Program at the University of Massachusetts Lowell offers a Bachelor of Science degree in Physics (Radiological Health Physics option), a Master of Science degree in Radiological Sciences and Protection, and a Doctor of Philosophy degree in Physics (Radiological Sciences option).

    50+ Years of Health Physics Education

    • 1969 - The Radiological Health Physics Department is established, offering a Bachelor of Science Degree in Radiological Health Physics and a Master of Science Degree in Radiological Sciences and Protection. 
    • 1973 -  The first B.S. and M.S. degrees awarded.  
    • 1976 - The Radiological Health Physics Department merges with the Department of Physics and Applied Physics.  
    • 1982 - A Radiological Sciences option to the Ph.D. degree in Physics is established, with the first degrees awarded in 1985.  
    • 1994 - The B.S. degree in Radiological Health Physics becomes an option to the B.S. degree in Physics.  
    • 2002 - A Radiological Sciences option to the Ph.D. degree in Biomedical Engineering and Biotechnology is established, with the first degree awarded in 2006.  
    • 2010 - The B.S. degree in Physics, Radiological Health Physics option, and the M.S. degree in Radiological Sciences and Protection each receive accreditation by ABET under the Applied Science Accreditation Commission. 
Chris Sain, Alumni of the radiological sciences program, headshot wearing a red flannel shirt

Meet Our Students & Alumni

“After completing my master’s degree, I landed my first professional job as an Assistant Officer in the Radiation Protection Program at MIT, where eight of my twelve fellow Officers are also UML Rad Sci graduates.” 
— Christopher Sain ’18, ’19

Learn how our students & alumni thrive at UML and beyond!