Physics program offers special emphasis to students interested in the medical field

Louisiana Tech University’s Physics program is offering a Medical Physics emphasis for students who love physics and are interested in a career in the medical field.

Students who pursue a physics degree with a medical physics emphasis at Louisiana Tech will learn problem-solving, experimental skills, mathematics, and computing and will receive additional training in chemistry and biology to develop the skills required to enter medical fields. Successful completion of the program will make them eligible for medical school and careers in medical physics as well as careers in other physics-related fields.

The interdisciplinary medical physics curriculum drew freshman Landen Nguyen to the program.

“Medical Physics brings my two passions, physics and medicine, together,” he said. “It’s a very unique field, in my opinion, and I didn’t want to have to sacrifice one for the other. I chose Louisiana Tech because of the University’s reputation for engineering programs, and, at the time, I planned on double majoring in electrical engineering and physics. However, once I began digging into the Physics curriculum, I saw the Medical Physics emphasis and changed course. Until then, I had no idea Medical Physics was an option.

“Once I graduate, I plan on pursuing graduate school, although I’m not sure yet whether that will be medical school or an advanced degree in astrophysics. That’s one of the benefits of the Medical Physics emphasis at Tech – it allows me to experience both medicine and physics and see which I like more so that I can decide which path to take after I earn my bachelor’s degree.”

Louisiana Tech has a collaboration agreement with the Willis-Knighton Cancer Center. Students who enroll in the Physics program and choose the Medical Physics emphasis work on a medical physics-related research project as part of the curriculum, collaborating with professionals at the Willis-Knighton Cancer Center. Other research options provide students with opportunities to participate in internationally-recognized research projects in biophysics, biostatistics, radiation physics, and nuclear physics.

Jobs in the medical physics sector of the economy are in high demand and are well paid. Medical physicists work in health care and apply their knowledge of physics to the development, design, and calibration of medical radiation and diagnostic devices and work with medical doctors to personalize patient treatments. Medical physicists can pursue careers in therapeutic medicine, diagnostic medicine, and nuclear medicine.

Medical physicists can expect a median salary of $119,000 with many jobs currently available, and more are expected to become available due to demand from new and expanding facilities. The American Institute of Physics (AIP) predicts a 14% job growth in medical physics between 2016-2026.

“The addition of the Medical Physics emphasis to the Physics curriculum adds flavor to what our program has to offer,” Dr. Pedro Derosa, program chair and professor of physics at Louisiana Tech, said. “More importantly, it gives students a path to a successful and well-paid career where there is an increasing need for qualified personnel. We created the Medical Physics emphasis to provide the chemistry and biology content required for a postgraduate degree in medical physics. Still, it also contains all the elements required to enter medical school. The emphasis offers all of this without sacrificing the quality of the training in physics and mathematics that are necessary for all other fields in physics.”