College of Sciences

Medical Physics

Overview and Program Goals

The University of Massachusetts Lowell’s Department of Physics and Applied Physics offers a Master of Science degree in Medical Physics and a Ph.D. in Radiological Sciences with Medical Physics Concentration. A Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering and Biotechnology with Medical Physics Specialization is also available. In collaboration with local and regional hospitals and cancer centers in the Boston area, the program is designed for individuals who seek the MS or Ph.D. degree and wish to be educated in therapeutic and imaging medical physics.

Students gain education and training in fundamental radiation sciences, medical physics 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 MS 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 physics positions, and future ABR exams. The clinical component provides the students with training dominantly in radiation therapy.

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.

Historically, most students have concentrated on therapy physics but because sometimes the cooperating hospitals have imaging or 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: Core physics courses, including two semesters of general physics plus Classical Mechanics, Electricity and Magnetism, and Modern Physics or Quantum Mechanics;
  • Mathematics: Three semesters of calculus and one semester of differential equations;
  • Computer Science: Proficiency 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.

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.

Further information on the graduate admission process, including on-line and downloadable application forms, may be accessed at the UMass Lowell Graduate Admission website.

Programs of Study

Master of Science Degree

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 Degree

There are two paths towards earning a Ph.D. degree in Medical Physics at UMass Lowell: Via the Department of Physics and Applied Physics’ Ph.D. Program with Radiological Sciences – Medical Physics option and via the University’s interdisciplinary doctoral program in Biomedical Engineering/Biotechnology (BMEBT) with Medical Physics/Radiological Sciences specialization. The Ph.D. in Physics path invariably appeals to traditional physics students. Students with engineering background often choose the BMEBT path. While retaining their respective Physics and Biomedical Engineering ancestry, these programs offer a common Medical Physics curriculum, which is based on the required courses in the MS curriculum.

Both Ph.D. programs, via Physics or BMEBT, offer 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 he/she has satisfied the relevant MS degree requirements as detailed above.

Sample curricula

For the latest course information please visit the UMass Lowell Online Academic Catalog.

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.

Medical Physics and Radiological Science Faculty, Research and Resources