The Field of Medical Physics

    Committee on Medical Physics One result of the vigorous interaction between the sciences of physics and biology is an increased use of new technologies in medicine. This use has created a need for individuals skilled in integrating the knowledge and techniques of physics and medicine, and it has fostered the emergence of a new profession: medical physics.

    Medical physics applies the principles of the physical sciences to biomedical problems. Thus, the activities of medical physicists cover a broad spectrum that ranges from the study of basic biomedical processes to the diagnosis and treatment of disease.

    Multidisciplinary Nature of Medical Physics

    Medical physics is one of several disciplines that have emerged from the growing interaction between physics and biology. Other such disciplines include biophysics, biomedical engineering, and health physics. Although the boundaries among these fields are by no means distinct, as a general guide, one may broadly state that biophysics concerns the use of physics in the study of basic biological mechanisms, that biomedical engineering concerns the development of new diagnostic instrumentation and prosthetic devices, and that health physics concerns the measurement of physical quantities that are related to environmental contaminants, especially ionizing radiation. The field of medical physics, on the other hand, may be defined broadly as "applied physics in medicine" and as such incorporates these other fields to the extent that they involve medical applications.

    Diversity of Medical Physics

    A feeling for the diversity of medical physics may be conveyed by listing some of the research and development problems with which medical physicists are concerned. These include:

    • The study of basic mechanisms by which radiation transfers energy to biological materials.
    • The development of new techniques for generating and detecting the various radiations used in medical science.
    • The application of radioactive tracers in diagnostic medicine and in the study of metabolism.
    • The optimization of physical parameters for particular tasks in diagnostic medical imaging (radiography, computed tomography, radionuclide imaging, magnetic resonance imaging, thermography, and ultrasonography).
    • Dosimetry in radiation therapy.
    • The measurement of pressures, flow, and oxygenation in cardiology,
    • the recording and interpretation of bio-electric potentials in neurology.
    • The analysis of diagnostic techniques in terms of information theory and communications theory.
    • The development of computer aids in diagnostic imaging, image-guided therapy, and tumor response assessment.

    Other related documents:

    Careers in Medical Physics
    Medical Physics at the U. of C.
    CAMPEP Accreditation
    Graduate Program Statistics