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    Course Description

    The course Medical Physics is an advanced undergraduate course at Penn State, Physics 462 (Applications of Physics in Medicine), created by Mark Strikman and taught by him for nearly ten years. The book is aimed at a general audience of science students, with the only prerequisite being an introductory course in physics. The syllabus appears below. It coincides with the contents of the text, mentioned below.

    The course begins by reviewing the relevant physics principles, including the properties of nuclei and atoms. A key topic is the nature of particle propagation in matter, since many of the medical techniques are related to that topic. Then the course explores diagnostic techniques, including all of the modern methods of imaging (X-ray, CT, MRI, ultrasound,…). The course concludes with a discussion of treatment methods involving physics.

    The book Applications of Modern Physics in Medicine (to be published) represents a summary of this course. The lectures in the course are distributed to the class and are available at this website.


    1. Introduction

    1.1 Overview

    1.2 Meaning of the term “modern physics

    1.3 Mortality

    2. When you visit the doctor: the physics of the “vital signs”

    2.1 Introduction
    2.2 Stethoscope
    2.3 Sphygmomanometer and blood pressure
    2.4 Electrocardiogram
    2.5 Physics and physiology of diet, exercise and weight

    3. Particles, waves and the laws that govern them

    3.1 What is “modern physics”?
    3.2 Light: particle or wave?
    3.3 Atoms
    3.4 Lasers
    3.5 Relativity
    3.6 Nuclei
    3.7 X-rays and radioactivity

    4. Photon and charged-particle interactions with a medium

    4.1 Introduction
    4.2 Mean free path and cross sections
    4.3 Photon interactions
    4.4 Electron and positron interactions

    5. Diagnostic applications I: photons and radionuclides

    5.1 Overview
    5.2 Photons
    5.3 X-rays and gamma rays
    5.4 Radionuclides

    6. Diagnostic applications II: MRI and ultrasound

    6.1 Overview
    6.2 Magnetic resonance imaging
    6.3 Ultrasound

    7. Applications in treatment

    7.1 Radiobiology
    7.2 Treatment with radiation
    7.3 Treatment with ultrasound
    7.4 Treatment with microwaves
    7.5 Treatment with lasers