PhD Program

The Medical Physics Program to a PhD degree with training in medical imaging, radiation therapy and nuclear medicine physics for careers in research, teaching or hospital practice.

The goal of the PhD Program in Medical Physics is to provide a sound academic foundation and practical experience for those planning to pursue a career in research, teaching or clinical medical physics in either of the subspecialty areas of medical imaging physics, therapeutic radiation physics or nuclear medicine physics.

Graduates are prepared for careers in these subspecialties or the continuation of their education in a postgraduate or residency program. The program comprises both academic and practical training components with the practical training taking place in affiliated hospitals.

The Medical Physics program is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Medical Physics Educational Programs, CAMPEP.

The Medical Physics group comprises faculty in multiple UB and Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center departments, postdoctoral staff, graduate student assistants and undergraduate students, with additional contributions from bioengineering and clinical and allied faculty as well as technical and administrative staff. The Medical Physics program faculty conduct research, teach and practice clinical medical physics in affiliated hospitals.

Program Objectives

The PhD Program is interdisciplinary in outlook, and strives to draw together medical physics interests from throughout the academic community.

Accordingly, collaborative relationships are maintained with a number of laboratories outside the department. Notable among these associations are the Radiation Oncology and Biophysics departments at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center.

On campus, long-standing links exist with the departments of Radiology, Nuclear Medicine, Neurosurgery, Biomedical Engineering, Electrical and Computer Engineering, Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering. A number of faculty members in these departments hold joint appointments in the Department of Radiology.

Consequently, a broad spectrum of medical physics expertise and research opportunities are available to students in the Medical Physics program.

Structure of the Program

The instruction and research in the Medical Physics Program can be broadly categorized into three subspecialty areas: diagnostic and interventional imaging, radiation therapy and nuclear medicine physics. Additionally, experiences in clinical medical physics are offered. Current imaging research programs involve new detector development for rapid sequence, high resolution radiography, fluoroscopy and angiography, region of interest and micro computed tomography, system characterization and optimization, single photon counting and dosimetry.

Research into the development of high resolution systems for image guided interventions and the development of interventional devices such as specialized stents for blood flow modification and treatment of cerebral aneurysms as well as 3D printed vascular and other models are also actively being pursued.

Two modern angiography suites dedicated to imaging physics and pre-clinical research are available in the new UB Clinical and Translational Science Institute. Image analysis and image processing involving guidance and interventional neuro and cardio vascular procedures and 3D imaging are other active projects. Magnetic resonance imaging projects using clinical and experimental high field dedicated animal systems are available at the CTRC and Roswell Park.

A full range of external beam and brachytherapy projects are actively being pursued at Roswell Park where four linear accelerators and a Gamma-knife facility are available.

Nuclear medicine physics faculty members are active in emission tomography imaging technology research. State-of-the-art emission tomographic imaging systems are available for research and teaching, including several clinical positron emission tomography (PET) and PET/CT systems, a dedicated small animal PET (microPET), clinical SPECT (single photon emission computed tomography) systems, and radiopharmaceutical laboratories.

Multi-modality research projects are also encouraged and may be fostered by the complementary interests of participating faculty. The program combines faculty and resources from both UB and Roswell Park.

Individual student programs are tailored to the student’s needs and interest, and to ensure broad experience in the major areas of the medical physics. A graduate student in the Medical Physics Program enjoys considerable freedom in the development of dissertation research and in the choice of his/her major professor.

PhD Program Requirements

Credit Hours

A total of at least 72 credit hours are required for the PhD degree. Of this total, at least 30 credit hours must be earned in formal didactic coursework (including letter-graded Independent Study), as well as including 4 credit hours in Seminar plus at least 2 credit hours Medical Physics Practicum (at least 1 in each of imaging and therapy physics); excluded are Research, Thesis Guidance, Supervised Teaching, and (unless receiving a priori approval under special circumstances) pass/fail Independent Study courses. Where appropriate, didactic course credits may be transferred from other graduate programs.

Course Requirements and Sample Schedule

The following courses, where graded, must be successfully completed with the achievement of a grade of B or better.

Required of all students in the Medical Physics Program:

Substitution of a more advanced course(s) is only upon approval by the adviser and program director.

An additional 3-credit elective in the students chosen specialty area is required for PhD students and may be chosen for example from one of the following:

Medical Imaging Physics

Therapeutic Radiation Physics

Nuclear Medicine Physics

Other Electives

The following courses may be used as elective upon approval by the adviser:

Qualified students may petition for a waiver of the requirement for any specific course upon the basis of the completion of an equivalent course with a grade of B or higher.

Students may be subject to a comprehensive examination once completing all core medical physics courses.

Sample Course Schedule

Doctoral Requirements: 72 total credits plus thesis

72 Credits: 21 didactic + 3 additional didactic in specialty + 4 (min) MP Seminar + 2 (min) MP Practicum

+ Additional credits can include Research and Thesis Preparation

  Course Number Course Title Code Semester Frequency Semester Credits Instructor
Semester 1              
  MDY 504 Physics of Medical Imaging I RD Fall Annual 3 Bednarek
  NMD 527 Radiation Biology RD Fall Annual 2 Harvey
  BE 562 Computed Tomography SD Fall Annual 3 Ionita
  MDY 605 Medical Physics Seminar R Fall Annual 1* Faculty
  MDY 607 Medical Physics Practicum R Fall Annual var** Faculty
Sem II              
  MDY 506 Physics of Medical Imaging II RD Spring Annual 3 Bednarek
  MDY 547 External Beam Therapy Physics SD Spring Annual 3 DeBoer
  MDY 610 Ethics and Professionalism RD Spring Annual 1 Podgorsak
or MDY 508 Anatomy/Physiology RD Spring Alt Years 3 Wang
BPR 572 Magnetic Resonance Imaging ED Spring Alt Years 3 Spernyak/Seshadri
  MDY 606 Medical Physics Seminar R Spring Annual 1* Faculty
  MDY 608 Medical Physics Practicum R Spring Annual var** Faculty
Sem III              
  MDY 571 Nuclear Medicine Physics I SD Fall Annual 3 Yao
and/or MDY 550 Brachytherapy ED Fall Annual 3 Malhotra
MDY 560 Advanced Radiation Therapy Physics ED Fall Annual 3 Podgorsak/Kumaraswamy
  MDY 605 Medical Physics Seminar R* Fall Annual 1* Faculty
  MDY 582 Research E Fall / Spring Annual var Faculty
Sem IV              
  MDY 566 Imaging Physics Problems and ABR Prep SD Spring Annual 3 Rudin
or MDY 508 Anatomy/Physiology RD Spring Alt Years 3 Wang
BPR 572 Magnetic Resonance Imaging ED Spring Alt Years 3 Spernyak/Seshadri
  MDY 606 Medical Physics Seminar R* Spring Annual 1* Faculty
  MDY 582 Research E Fall / Spring Annual var Faculty
               
Other Course Listings            
  MDY 572 Nuclear Medicine Imaging Physics II ED Spring Annual 3 Yao
  MDY 522 Image Formation and Processing SD Spring Alt Years 3 Hoffmann
  MDY 523 Advanced Image Analysis SD Spring Alt Years 3 Hoffmann
  MDY 600 Independent Study E Fall / Spring Annual var Faculty
    Thesis Preparation E Fall / Spring Annual var Faculty

Code:

RD - Required didactic course

R - Required non-didactic course

SD - Specialty didactive elective [One required in each specialty area of Medical Imaging Physics, Therapeutic Radiation Physics, and Nuclear Medicine Physics]

ED - Recommended elective didactic course

E - Elective non-didactic

* MP Seminar: 1 credit per semester; 2 (for MS) or 4 (for PhD) credits are required (4 maximum)
** Practicum: 2 MP Practicum credits required (4 maximum)

Seminar

Doctoral students are required to register for credit in Seminar for at least 4 semesters. In addition, attendance at the Medical Physics Program seminar series is expected of all students throughout the duration of their graduate programs. During this period, each student is expected to present at least one seminar.

Candidacy

Advancement to candidacy for the PhD degree requires the completion of all programmatic course requirements, and satisfaction of the preliminary examination requirements.

Preliminary Examination

The preliminary examination for the PhD consists of the preparation of an independently written report and an oral defense.

The written report may be prepared in the form of either (a) a summary of research work performed by the student, which work resulted in an original paper authored by the student and accepted for publication in a professional journal or conference proceeding and/or accepted for presentation as a talk or poster at a national or regional scientific conference or (b) a research grant application.

a) Summary report option: the report should summarize the contents of the original paper(s) and/or presentation and should contain a background review of the subject area as well as a section outlining relevant areas of future work that could be investigated. The section on future work should demonstrate the student’s ability to critically assess the feasibility of performing new and important investigations.

b) Research-grant-application option: the report should be in the format of a grant application to a national funding agency such as the NIH or NSF. It should provide background information and a description of the research plan, presenting compelling evidence of the scientific soundness and feasibility of the proposed work. Budgetary and personnel sections of the application are not required.

All reports should contain a listing with full citation of all published papers, proceedings and professional meeting presentations authored or coauthored by the student while in this Medical Physics Program. Copies of related abstracts, manuscripts and posters should be provided as an appendix.

The acceptability of the written report and oral defense will be determined by an examination committee consisting of at least three faculty members of the Medical Physics Program, one of whom will serve as chair. The committee members and chair will be selected by the Medical Physics Program Director in consultation with the student’s research advisor. The report topic is chosen by the student but must be approved beforehand by the examination committee chair; it may address a research topic that overlaps with the student’s proposed PhD thesis project. The report and its oral defense should be completed by the beginning of the student's fifth semester in residence. The written report is to be first submitted to the examination committee chair. If found to be appropriate with respect to topic, format and composition, it will then be submitted to the exam committee for scientific evaluation. If the exam committee finds the written document to be unacceptable, it will be returned to the student with comments for revision. Following approval of the written document, an oral defense before the same committee will be scheduled; the oral presentation is open only to faculty. Questions posed by the committee during the defense will be directed primarily toward the presentation, but will also explore the student's mastery of basic concepts of medical physics and assess the student’s ability to conduct independent research and successfully complete a PhD dissertation.

If the oral presentation is judged to be unacceptable, the committee will inform the student of the areas of weakness. A second defense will be scheduled after a period of time appropriate for correcting the deficit(s). Failure of the second defense or failure to successfully prepare and defend a report within the guidelines and timeline presented here is grounds for dismissal from the graduate program. The student may challenge the decision of the examination committee by written appeal to the Program Director. Should a satisfactory resolution not be reached after appeal to the Program Director, further appeal may be made to the JSMBS Dean.

Dissertation Research, Preparation, and Review

The dissertation research is conducted by the graduate student under the tutelage of the Dissertation Committee consisting of the major professor and at least three additional university faculty, two of whom are members of the program’s graduate faculty; all committee members should hold the rank of assistant professor or above. The Dissertation Committee critically monitors and supervises preparation of the dissertation and will meet at least semi-annually with the student during the course of the dissertation project. These meetings will serve to provide a progress report to the committee. The oral defense of the dissertation is scheduled after the candidate’s Dissertation Committee and the Program have approved the dissertation. The research represented by the dissertation is presented in a seminar prior to the formal oral defense before the Committee.

Financial Assistance

Doctoral students, admitted to candidacy after passing the qualifying examination, normally receive financial support from their advisor in the form of a graduate/research assistantship or part-time job.

Highly qualified underrepresented minority candidates may be eligible for assistance through the Arthur A. Schomburg Fellowship.

Federal grants and loans are available by filing the FAFSA application.

How to Apply

Admission Requirements & Procedure

The candidate for graduate work in the Medical Physics Program should have demonstrated above-average academic performance, especially in mathematics, physics and chemistry. Entry into the program is contingent upon award of the baccalaureate degree.

Applicants generally enter the program directly into the Medical Physics Program.

Applicants are required to submit the following:

  • College transcripts
  • Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores (Subject Test is optional.)
  • Three (3) letters of recommendation from professional references, and
  • A statement of interest in the program including the applicant’s goals and experience.

International applicants must also present:

  • Financial data
  • The results of TOEFL — (Test of English as a Foreign Language) if English is not a native language. A TOEFL score of 575 is considered the minimum acceptable for admissions consideration.

Requirements for the PhD

University/Institutional Graduate School Requirements:

  • A minimum of three years (72 credit hours) of graduate study
  • A minimum residence of one year (24 credit hours)
  • Continuous registration for a minimum of one semester hour each fall and spring term until all requirements for the degree are completed.
  • A PhD dissertation which is an original contribution, normally written in English.

Applying to the Medical Physics PhD Program

You can apply to the PhD program online using the button below.

Under Select Degree Program select “Medical Physics (PhD)” in the dropdown list.

Submit Your Official Credentials

After you have applied online, you must submit these official credentials:

  • Official transcript(s) from every institution you have previously attended
  • Three letters of recommendation
  • Resume
  • A personal letter stating career objectives and research experience.
  • Official GRE score report(s)

GRE score reporting codes:

  • Institution code: R2925
  • Department Code: 0222

Fees

The application fee is $85.

Your application fee must be paid online. This can be done via your GrAdMIT application account.

English Proficiency

International applicants must also present your official TOEFL score. It is university policy that TOEFL score reports be no older than two years when students enter a program. A TOEFL (PBT) score of 550 or TOEFL (IBT) score of 79 is considered the minimum acceptable for admissions consideration.

  • Institution code: R2925 (SUNY-University at Buffalo)
  • Department code: 36

Eligibility

The Medical Physics Accreditation Commission, CAMPEP, requires that entering students have either an undergraduate physics major or a strong physics minor with at least three upper-level advanced physics courses as required of physics majors.

Admission is based on:

  • A grade point average of B (3.0) or better
  • Examination scores (Superior quantitative and above-average analytic GRE scores are expected.)
  • Letters of recommendation (3)
  • Academic performance
  • Research experience

Recommended undergraduate courses include: physics and mathematics, including calculus and statistics, biomedical and/or electrical engineering, chemistry, biology, and physiology.

Deadline

Your application should be completed and official documentation filed no later than March 15 for matriculation in the fall semester. However, the program has a rolling admission and you should contact the program director if you desire to file after this deadline. The admissions committee of the program will review your completed application and you will be contacted directly by the program regarding admission.