The Doctor of Philosophy program is designed for full-time study with a minimum of 70 credit hours required for degree completion.  The program is comprised of 34 credit hours of didactic coursework, largely completed over the first two years of the program: 22 credit hours of medical physics “core” classes and 12 credit hours of elective coursework, as well as a minimum of 36 credit hours of thesis research. The program commences in the fall semester, and didactic courses will run over traditional 16 week schedules during the fall and spring semesters. During the summer, students will be expected to work on their thesis research project. Clinical shadowing opportunities will also be available for those who have interest.  

Example Course Schedule

Course Descriptions

BIOL 4581: Principles of Human Anatomy and Development

This course will discuss the anatomy of most of the functional systems of the human body.  Topics covered will include the peripheral nervous system, respiration, circulation, the skeletal system, the gastro-intestinal tract, the urogenital system, the male and female reproductive systems, locomotion, manipulation, mastication, vocalization, the visual system, the auditory system and the olfactory system.  Selected topics in human embryology will also be introduced.  The course provides valuable preparation for any student interested in human biology, anthropology, medicine or the health sciences.

Prerequisite: College level biology or equivalent

Instructor: David Strait PhD

Credits: 3 credit hours

Fall

ESE 589: Biological Imaging Technology

This class will develop a fundamental understanding of the physics and mathematical methods that underlie biological imaging and critically examine case studies of seminal biological imaging technology literature. The physics sections will examine how electromagnetic and acoustic waves interact with tissues and cells, how waves can be used to image the biological structure and function, image formation methods and diffraction limited imaging. The math sections will examine image formation and analysis using basis functions (e.g. Fourier transforms), synthesis of measurement data, reduction of multi-dimensional imaging datasets, and statistical image analysis. Original literature on electron, confocal and two photon microscopy, ultrasound, nuclear imaging, computed tomography, functional and structural magnetic resonance imaging and other emerging imaging technology will be critiqued.

Prerequisite:  Physics and calculus

Instructor: Joseph O’Sullivan PhD

Credits: 3 credit hours

Spring

MP 501: Clinical Imaging Fundamentals

This course will discuss the main imaging modalities used in the clinic. This includes x-ray, magnetic resonance, ultrasound, and nuclear imaging. Applications with an emphasis on diagnostic imaging and image-guided radiotherapy will be covered. The focus of this course is on the underlying physical principles, technical implementations, image reconstruction algorithms, and quality assurance. In addition to the didactic component, there will be hands-on laboratory sessions on CT, cone-beam CT, planar x-ray imaging, mammography, MRI, ultrasound, and nuclear medicine.

Prerequisite: ESE589; permission of the Program Director

Instructor: Yao Hao, PhD

Credits: 2 credit hours

Fall

MP 502: Radiological Physics and Dosimetry

Hours of Instruction: Monday and Wednesday 3:30-5:00 pm

This class is designed to construct a theoretical foundation for ionizing radiation dose calculations and measurements in a medical context and prepare graduate students for proper scientific presentations of in the field of x-ray imaging and radiation therapy. This course will cover the fundamental concepts of radiation physics, how ionizing radiation interact with matter, and how the energy that is deposited in the matter can be measured in theory and practice. Specifically, a student completing this course will be able to do the following:

1.  Understand and apply key concepts specific to energy deposition for both ionizing photon interactions and transport in matter and for energetic charged particle interactions and transport in matter. Radiation sources include radioactivity, x-ray tubes, and linear accelerators.

2.  Understand the theoretical details of ion-chamber based dosimetry and of cavity-theories based clinical dose measurement protocols.

3.  Perform and present real world style research projects as a group, and present these projects in a typical professional scientific format and style.

4.  Achieve an appreciation of the history and potential future developments in ionizing radiation detection and dosimetry.

Prerequisite:  Physics and calculus; permission of the Program Director

Instructor: Tiezhi Zhang, PhD

Credits: 3 credit hours

Fall

MP 503: Independent Study

The independent study course is designed to provide graduate students with an opportunity to gain insight into an aspect of the field of medical physics. The goal of the course is to provide introductory experience on a focused project with one or more faculty mentor(s).  Graduate students will be matched with a project/mentor based on a number of factors, including student interest in the area of study and availability.  

Prerequisite:  Physics and calculus; Permission of the Program Director

Instructor: Michael B. Altman, PhD

Credits: 1 Credit Hour

Fall and Spring

MP 503c: Clinical Project

Students will complete a clinically-focused, hands-on project under the supervision of a faculty mentor. Students will learn background as to the impetus of this project, will develop a plan or procedure for completing the project, and will take a major role in performing and completing the developed tasks. The goal of this is to simulate and gain an understanding of the workflow needed to achieve advancements in the clinic and/or patient care, as well as for students to gain a deeper understanding about a clinically focused topic. An oral presentation and written report describing the completed project work is required.

Prerequisite:  2 semesters of MP503; Permission of the Program Director

Instructor: Various

Credits: 3 credit hours

Fall or Spring

MP 503t: Thesis Research

Students will complete a research project under the supervision of a faculty mentor. Thesis students will develop a thesis proposal, conduct mentored research, and disseminate this research in the form of an oral defense and written thesis. The goal of this project is to gain an in-depth understanding about an area of development or research in the medical physics field, as well as to gain an understanding about how to structure, perform, and present academic work. Students may also learn about academic publication composition and submission. An oral presentation and written report describing the completed project work is required.

Prerequisite:  2 semesters of MP503; Permission of the Program Director

Instructor: Various

Credits: 3 credit hours (per semester).  Two semesters expected

Fall and Spring

MP 504: Ethics, Professionalism and Current Topics

This course prepares students to critically evaluate ethical, regulatory and professional issues, and leadership in clinical practice and research. The principal goal of this course is to prepare students to recognize ethics and compliance resources in clinical research and the situational factors that give rise to them, to identify ethics and compliance resources, and to foster ethical problem-solving skills. Additionally, the course introduces professionalism, core elements, common traits of the medical physics profession, confidentiality, conflict of interest, interpersonal interactions, negotiations and leadership skills. Characteristics of successful leadership are also identified. Interaction with patients, colleagues, vendors, and clinic staff will also be emphasized.

Prerequisite:  Permission of the Program Director

Instructor: Naim Ozturk PhD

Credits: 1 credit hour

Spring

MP 505: Radiobiology

This class is designed to establish a foundation for ionizing radiation interaction with biological tissues. It will cover the fundamental concepts of cell biology, how ionizing radiation interacts with cells, radiation damage and carcinogenesis, radiation therapy fractionation and related concepts. The effects of ionizing radiations on living cells and organisms, including physical, chemical, and physiological basis of radiation cytotoxicity, mutagenicity, and carcinogenesis are also covered.

Prerequisite:  College level biology or BIOL4581; Permission of the Program Director

Instructor: Buck Rogers PhD

Credits: 2 credit hours

Spring

MP 506: Radiation Oncology Physics

This course is designed to build on the concept of radiation dosimetry techniques and bring them into the clinical realm. The students will learn clinical applications of radiation dose measurements as used in radiation therapy for the treatment of cancer. Ionizing radiation producing devices such as external beam, brachytherapy, protons and charged particles, imaging modalities, simulation, radiation delivery, treatment verification imaging, quality assurance, motion management and image-guided techniques will be the major focus.

Prerequisite:  MP502; Permission of the Program Director

Instructor: Michael B. Altman, PhD

Credits: 3 credit hours

Spring

MP 521: Radiation Protection and Safety

This class is designed to further the concepts of radiation interactions and dosimetry to radiation protection and safety and biological consequences of radiation exposure in humans. Protection and safety of the radiation worker and patient, as well as detection equipment and shielding analysis will be main focus. This course will briefly cover regulations, and radiological protection in various clinical environments. 

Prerequisite:  Physics and calculus; Permission of the Program Director

Instructor: Michael Prusator, PhD

Credits: 2 credit hours

Fall

MP 522: Clinical Rotations

The student will rotate through various areas within the Radiation Therapy Clinic and develop an understanding of the applications of physics in the use of radiation for the treatment of cancers. This will include simulation, quality assurance of various imaging and radiation sources, dose calculation, intensity modulation treatments, radiosurgery, stereotactic body radiotherapy, brachytherapy, radiopharmaceutical therapy, and more.

Prerequisite:  MP502, MP506, and MP521; Permission of the Program Director

Instructor: Jose Garcia-Ramirez, MSc

Credits: 2 credit hour

Fall

MP 523: Advanced Clinical Medical Physics Lab

The objective of this course is to reinforce and enhance the understanding concepts developed in didactic medical physics courses through practica, laboratory work, and/or special lectures.  Students will gain a deeper understanding of the physics and methods involved in clinical imaging and/or radiation therapy treatment processes.   The various practica will cover an array of topic areas including absolute dosimetry, relative dose measurements, patient QA, imaging QA, radiation beam modeling, treatment planning, proton therapy, brachytherapy, stereotactic radiotherapy, and adaptive radiation therapy.

Prerequisite:  MP502, MP506, and MP521; Permission of the Program Director

Instructor: Michael B. Altman, PhD

Credits: 2 credit hours

Fall

Coursework

In addition to the didactic coursework in the first year of the program, students would generally have a three credit hour Research Rotation each semester. The Research Rotations are aimed at matching students into laboratories to complete their thesis research. An additional research rotation in the summer of the first year is allowed if needed. Students must match into a laboratory following the completion of their research rotations to continue in the program. Up to 6 total credit hours of Research Rotations may be counted towards the 70 total credit hours needed for graduation. 

During their second year (and/or beyond at the student’s discretion) students in the Doctor of Philosophy in Medical Physics program will take 12 credit hours of elective coursework. Electives must be courses offered through Washington University in St. Louis and must be at the graduate level (500 or above) to fulfill the course credit, although up to two electives may be at the 400 level with permission of the student’s Faculty Advisor. Although not required, students are encouraged to select electives that provide didactic background for their selected thesis topic. Electives listed as Medical Physics (MP), Physics (Physics), Biomedical Engineering (BME), Electrical and Systems Engineering (ESE), Computer Science and Engineering (CSE), and/or Mathematics (Math) do not need special permission. Any from other departments require permission of the student’s Faculty Advisor.  

Students entering the program with a CAMPEP-accredited MS degree (or equivalent) may receive credit for up to all 22 core Medical Physics credit hours. If they graduated from the Master of Science in Medical Physics program at Washington University in St. Louis, and have taken elective classes while in that program, they may receive credit for those towards the elective requirement. Additionally, these students may waive the Research Rotation requirement, although a minimum of 36 total credit hours of Thesis Research is still required.

Additional Requirements

In addition to the credit hour requirements as described above, students in the program will be expected to:

  • Attend/participate in regularly scheduled academic activities including a monthly, faculty moderated journal club and regular physics seminars.
  • Act as unpaid Assistants in Instruction for two courses within the program after successful completion of their first year in the program.
  • Pass a comprehensive thesis qualifying exam covering the core Medical Physics course topics at the end of the second year.
  • Complete a written and oral thesis proposal following successful completion of the qualifying exam.  While ideally within 6 months following the exam, students who do not complete the proposal within 1.5 years after passing the qualifying exam are placed in academic probation.
  • Complete a written and oral thesis defense at the completion of their thesis research work under the guidance of a Thesis Advisor.

Academic Calendar

Our programs follow the same calendar as the McKelvey School of Engineering. The most up-to-date information for the current academic calendar can be found here: 

Current Academic Calendars 

Academic Dismissal

Students failing to maintain an overall “B” (GPA of 3.0) in courses may be advised to repeat some of the courses. Failure to achieve the minimum required grade in a course for the second time may result in termination from the program. Students may appeal grades by filing an appeal with the Assessment Committee within 30 days of completing a course. Students who do not achieve necessary benchmarks and program requirements in the course of their graduate studies may be placed on probation. Probation will require the Assessment Committee, with input from a student’s Faculty Advisor and Thesis Advisor, to craft a plan and timeline for the student to remediate any issues. Failure to meet the conditions, timeline, and/or benchmarks of the probationary plan may result in termination from the program. The program committee will make final decisions as to matters of dismissal.

Leave of Absence

Should a student require a leave of absence for academic or personal reasons from the PhD in Medical Physics program they must submit a statement in writing to the Program Director for approval. Such statements should include anticipated start and return dates as well as a brief description of the reason. Leaves of absence are granted for no more than one year, but in rare occasions may be renewed by the program. Students requiring a personal leave of absence for medical reasons must also submit a letter from their attending physician.