Department of Radiation Oncology

Medical Physics Graduate Program

The Medical Physics Programs (Master's degree in Medical Physics and Certificate in Medical Physics) are in the process of relaunching at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. We plan to open the application for admission in late Fall 2018 in order to accept a class for Fall semester of 2019.  We welcome you to contact our program team to request more information and updates:

mpp-info@uphs.upenn.edu  

Our programs, fully accredited by CAMPEP (Commission on Accreditation of Medical Physics Educational Programs), prepare you for a career in medical physics, allowing you to provide patients with life-changing medical options every day.  See how our unmatched resources and rigorous curriculum can help shape your career path in this dynamic field.   -- Stephen Avery, Ph.D., Director 

Medical physicists play a critical role at the cutting-edge of patient healthcare, overseeing effective radiation treatment, ensuring that instruments are working safely, and researching, developing and implementing new therapeutic techniques. Our master’s degree and post-graduate certificate programs combine the resources at the University of Pennsylvania and the prestigious Perelman School of Medicine.

Master's Degree in Medical Physics

The CAMPEP-accredited medical physics training in the master's degree program includes essential medical physics courses that balance classroom, laboratory, clinical and research experiences. The master's program at Penn takes medical physics training one step further by focusing on improving professional skills, ethics, and sense of responsibility in both clinical and research settings to promote the highest possible standards of patient care. 

Students can choose a subspecialty of medical physics to be their focus in the master's degree program:

  • Radiation oncology
  • Diagnostic imaging
  • Nuclear medicine
  • Medical health physics

Curriculum — Master's Degree

The master's degree curriculum integrates theory, cutting-edge clinical application and medical ethics training to prepare you for a career as an innovative leader in medical physics. As you learn new theories and techniques, you put them into practice at our world-class medical facilities on Penn’s campus.

As you become more familiar with the diverse branches of medical physics available, you have the opportunity to follow your interests and explore your passion further by focusing your coursework in a subspecialty of medical physics and creating your year-long capstone research project.

The capstone, a project of your own design and choosing, culminates in a paper and presentation. The project challenges you to bring together your skills and understanding in the area of medical physics most fascinating to you. It defines your time in the master's program to future employers and often serves as a springboard to your residency or further graduate study.

The master's degree consists of 15 medical physics course units (CUs) at the graduate level. The program can typically be completed full time in four semesters and one summer session. Part-time study is possible.

  • Introduction to Radiation Protection (.5 CU)
  • Medical Ethics/Governmental Regulation (.5 CU)
  • Physics of Radiation Therapy (1 CU)
  • Image-Based Anatomy (1 CU), required by the American Board of Radiology
  • Radiation Biology (1 CU), required by the American Board of Radiology
  • NEW - Radiation Detection and Measurement (1 CU)
  • NEW - Computational Medical Physics (1 CU)
  • Medical Radiation Engineering (1 CU)
  • Introductory Practicum seminar series I (required, non-credit)
  • Introductory Practicum seminar series II (required, non-credit)
  • Physics of Medical/Molecular Imaging (1 CU)
  • Capstone Research Project (2 CUs)
  • Biomedical Image Analysis (1 CU)
  • NEW - Medical Physics Laboratory (1 CU)
  • Clinical Practicum (1 CU)
  • Two elective courses (2 CUs)

Facilities

Medical Physics Programs students are engaged in both clinical and research aspects of medical physics through the University of Pennsylvania Health System's state-of-the-art medical imaging and therapy facilities. Students gain insights into the practical applications of the Medical Physics master’s degree through their interaction with faculty members, staff physicists, and residents through hands-on learning experiences.

Facilities include:

  • University of Pennsylvania Health System: A state-of-the-art medical imaging and therapy facility
  • Perelman Center for Advanced Medicine (PCAM): An outpatient facility designed to create an ideal environment for patient-focused care and collaboration among healthcare professionals
  • Abramson Cancer Center: Housed in PCAM, a world leader in cancer research, patient care and education
  • Department of Radiation Oncology: Dedicated to a three-part mission of excellence in patient care, basic and translational research, and the education of residents and medical students
  • Roberts Proton Therapy Center: The largest and most advanced facility in the world for this precise form of cancer radiation
  • Department of Bioengineering: Graduate programs consistently rate among the top 10 in the country 
  • Department of Radiology: A recognized world leader in radiological patient care, clinically centered at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, Penn Presbyterian Medical Center, Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, and the Veterans Administration Medical Center
  • Medical Imaging Processing Group: One of the oldest and longest active research groups in the world engaged in research on the processing, visualization, and analysis of medical images and the medical and clinical applications of these computerized methods

Clinical Opportunities

Students get valuable hands-on clinical experience at the Roberts Proton Therapy Center, the largest and most advanced facility in the world for proton therapy, at the Perelman Center for Advanced Medicine, and at affiliate sites around the Philadelphia area or in Florida.  Opportunities include the full-semester clinical practicum experience, paid work to perform quality assurance measurements on patient plans being treated on traditional linear accelerators, morning warm-up of the proton therapy gantries, and preparation and presentation of treatment plans at department chart rounds.

In addition to clinical and research opportunities available throughout the University of Pennsylvania Health System, the Medical Physics Programs work in collaboration with a variety of hospitals to offer our students additional practicum experiences and hands-on medical physics training.

Research Opportunities

All master's degree students are required to complete a Capstone research project.  There are a variety of opportunities based on the incredible resources available at Penn.  Here’s a list of some of the projects that students have worked on:

  • Improvements of fluorescent imaging of tumors
  • Impact analysis of anatomical shifts in proton therapy
  • Characterizing a phosphor-based optical fiber scintillator for use in dosimetry
  • Optimizing radiation planning for glioblastoma through multi-modality MRI analysis and machine learning
  • Validation and development of diffuse tensor imaging (DTI) methods for patients receiving skull base and brain radiation
  • Neutron dosimetry: classifying scattered neutron dose during proton therapy
  • Single angle DRR matching (2D) for SBRT alignment verification
  • Virtual patient specific proton QA

We encourage students to publish their research results and present findings at professional conferences, and we provide financial support with small travel grants. Students have successfully given oral or poster presentations at:

  • American Association of Physicists in Medicine (AAPM) Annual Meeting
  • American Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology (ASTRO) Annual Meeting
  • International Union for Physical and Engineering Sciences in Medicine (IUPSEM) World Congress
  • Particle Therapy Co-Operative Group (PTCOG) Annual Conference
  • Society for Nuclear Medicine and Medical Imaging (SNMMI) Conference
  • International Symposium Stereotactic Radiosurgery/Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy (SRS/SBRT)

Professional Development and Career Mentorship

Our unique Professional Development Series prepares all our students for success in the medical physics residency application and match process.  Each session features a presentation or panel discussion by faculty and medical physics residents. Students learn how to assemble an impressive application for residency including an effective resume / CV, selection of references, and compelling personal statement. We provide tips to master the residency interview process and connect students with program alumni who provide further insight during the interview process.  Career Mentors — faculty and staff physicists from the Department of Radiation Oncology — meet with students to provide feedback on their residency applications, conduct a practice interview, and offer career advice.

The series also develops the professional skills and competencies you need as a medical physicist.  You learn best practices to work productively on teams; communicate effectively with doctors, patients, and administrators; write scientific abstracts; give oral presentations; and hone leadership skills. We provide advice on how to strategically approach the American Board of Radiology Part I Exam. Our series also features networking events with program alumni, faculty, and staff to further your involvement with our medical physics community.

Medical Physics Residency Placement — Master's Degree

The Medical Physics Programs works hard to help you secure a residency after completing your degree at Penn.  We have one of the highest placement rates in the country.

Graduation Year Applied for Match Received Match Percentage Matched National MedPhys Match*
2018 7 6 86% 57%
2017 4 4** 100% 48%
2016 6 6** 100% 51%
2015 6 4 67% 39%
2014 6 6 100% N/A

In addition to making our students competitive for the Medical Physics Matching Program (MedPhys Match), we are currently exploring ways to provide additional residency positions for our graduates through on- and off-campus partnerships. The CAMPEP-accredited Penn Medical Physics residency program is a comprehensive two-year program designed to educate and train physicists in all aspects of modern radiation oncology physics. The residency program accepts four residents annually and at least one of the top four ranks is preferentially awarded to a graduate of the master's degree program through the match program. The residency provides didactic instruction in medical physics, anatomy and radiation biology, and clinical experience in a wide spectrum of clinical physics problems, as well as preparation for the American Board of Radiology certification exams.

Admission Requirements — Master's Degree

Note:  Although we plan to open the application for admission in late Fall 2018, it is a good idea to prepare the application materials ahead of time so that you will be able to submit by the application deadline (not yet announced). 

  • Bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution (or the equivalent of a U.S. four-year bachelor’s degree)
  • Minimum of an undergraduate minor in physics or its equivalent (two semesters of calculus-based physics plus at least three advanced courses, preferably including Electricity and Magnetism) 
  • Post-secondary transcripts from each post-secondary school attended (uploaded by applicant into online application)
  • Graduate Record Exam (GRE) score (physics subject test recommended for non-physics majors)
  • Current résumé  (uploaded by applicant into online application)
  • Three letters of recommendation (contact information of recommenders required in online application)
  • Personal statement (uploaded by applicant into online application)
  • Completion of online application and payment of application fee

Additional requirements for international applicants:

  • Credential evaluation for all post-secondary international transcripts (through World Education Services Inc., a third-party verification agency)
  • Applicants whose first language is not English must submit Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) scores or International English Language Testing System (IELTS) scores to demonstrate English proficiency.  The minimum TOEFL scores required for admissions consideration are: 100 (iBT), 250 (CBT) or 600 (PBT) or IELTS score of 7.

Successful applicants typically have:

  • 3.5 cumulative grade point average (GPA) or higher, with grades of “B” or better in physics and math courses.
  • Graduate Record Exam (GRE) quantitative scores in the 80th percentile or higher. 

Admission Statistics — Master's Degree

Year Applied Admitted Matriculated
2016 46 23 9
2015 43 21 6
2014 45 23 10
2013 62 23 8
2012 77 29 9

The majority of our alumni work as medical physicists, and while most of our recent graduates are placed in residency programs, some have gone on to pursue PhD or medical degrees, or secured positions in academia or industry. Many graduates now work as medical physicists or residents in institutions like the University Pennsylvania (PA), Washington University in St. Louis (MO), Landauer Medical Physics (TX), University of California — Berkeley (CA), Mayo Clinic (AZ), Wright-Patterson Air Force Base (OH), 21st Century Oncology (FL), and Accelerated Medical Physics Services (CT).

Financial Aid — Master's Degree

In addition to student loans, the following funding opportunities are available to eligible students on a competitive basis: 

  • Partial stipends for select first-year students acting as research assistants ($2,500 stipend)
  • Employment opportunities for students to perform quality assurance measurements in the clinics at Penn which provide valuable clinical experience (approximately $20/hour)
  • Partial stipends available to select second-year students acting as teaching assistants for select first-year courses (approximately $1,600 stipend per course)
  • Part-time employment opportunities (non-work study positions) such as Teaching Assistants for the Department of Physics & Astronomy or hourly paid positions at the University of Pennsylvania
  • Employment opportunities for Graduate Associates (GA).  GAs are responsible for supporting undergraduate students in the dormitory in exchange for free dormitory housing and a meal plan.   

Medical Physics Certificate Program

The University of Pennsylvania’s CAMPEP-accredited Certificate Program in Medical Physics offers a pathway for individuals who have earned a Ph.D. in physics or a related field (e.g., engineering, computer science, or physical chemistry with a strong physics minor) to enter a CAMPEP-accredited residency program in medical physics. Penn’s Medical Physics Certificate Program will offer participants a curriculum based on the recommendations of AAPM report #197S. Coursework will include radiological physics, radiation protection, medical imaging, medical ethics/government regulation, anatomy and physiology, radiobiology, and the physics of radiation therapy. Full-time students complete a total of 6 course units (CUs) over the course of two semesters. Part-time study is available.

Curriculum — Certificate

  • Introduction to Radiation Protection (.5 CU)
  • Physics of Medical/Molecular Imaging (1 CU)
  • Image-Based Anatomy (1 CU), required by the American Board of Radiology
  • Medical Radiation Engineering (1 CU)
  • Introductory Practicum seminar series I (required, non-credit)
  • Introductory Practicum seminar series II (required, non-credit)
  • Medical Ethics/Governmental Regulation (.5 CU)
  • Physics of Radiation Therapy (1 CU)
  • Radiation Biology (1 CU), required by the American Board of Radiology

Admission Requirements — Certificate

  • PhD degree in physics or a related field (e.g., engineering, computer science or physical chemistry) from an accredited institution  
  • Minimum of an undergraduate minor in physics or its equivalent (two semesters of calculus-based physics plus at least three advanced courses, preferably including Electricity and Magnetism) 
  • Post-secondary transcripts from each post-secondary school attended 
  • Current résumé  
  • Three letters of recommendation 
  • Personal statement
  • Completion of online application and payment of application fee

Additional requirements for international applicants:

  • Credential evaluation for all post-secondary international transcripts (through World Education Services Inc., a third-party verification agency)
  • Applicants who completed a PhD degree not taught in English must submit Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) scores or International English Language Testing System (IELTS) scores to demonstrate English proficiency.  The minimum TOEFL scores required for admissions consideration are: 100 (iBT), 250 (CBT) or 600 (PBT) or IELTS score of 7.  

Admission Statistics — Certificate

Year Applied Admitted Matriculated
2016 7 7 5
2015 6 3 2
2014 12 12 11
2013 11 11 9
2012 5 5* 5

*2 admits were residents taking supplemental courses

Medical Physics Residency Placement — Certificate

Graduation Year Applied for Match Received Match Percentage Matched National MedPhys Match*
2017 3 1 33.3% 48%
2016 1 1 100% 51%
2015 9 5 55.6% 39%
2014 8 7 87.5% N/A

*https://natmatch.com/medphys/statistics.html

PhD in Physics

Students interested in pursuing a doctorate degreee (PhD) in physics who express a research interest in innovative concepts of physics in medicine can apply to the Doctor of Philosophy program in the Department of Physics & Astronomy. These students will receive the necessary mentoring and coursework to complete their dissertation following the guidelines of the department of Physics & Astronomy in the School of Arts & Sciences. In addition, PhD recipients will have completed the requirements to apply for medical physics residency programs.

Contact Us

Members of the Medical Physics Programs team will work with you to plan your path through the degree or certificate program, and will help find answers to all of your questions. We look forward to helping you learn more about the exciting opportunities that await you at Penn!

Stephen Avery, PhD, Program Director

Associate Professor of Radiation Oncology, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine
Medical Physicist in the Department of Radiation Oncology, Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania

General questions may be directed to:

Andrea Radine, Ed.M., Associate Director
mpp-info@uphs.upenn.edu

(215) 662-3617

updated September 2018

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