MD Anderson Cancer Center - UTHealth
Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences

Applying to the Medical Physics Program

Program Statistics

Being a Student in the Program

Certificate Program in Medical Physics

For Further Information

Choosing the More Suitable Degree Program

The Specialized Master of Science Program is intended for students who seek a career that is primarily clinical in nature, although the SMS student is required to conduct research and to write and defend a thesis. The Doctor of Philosophy Program is intended for students who wish to have a greater emphasis on teaching and research in their careers. As such, the research component of the PhD is longer and deeper than that of the SMS. As a practical matter, many applicants lean toward earning the PhD degree because of the perception that it is easier to obtain a residency position with a doctoral degree. Applicants should be aware that the only research opportunities for SMS students are in Radiation Physics.

Return to the Topics

GSBS Application

The MD Anderson UTHealth Graduate School receives all applications through its Web site. You can get started at https://gsbs.uth.edu/admissions/requirements.htm. Applicants to the SMS program should choose "MS" under the degree plan question and then select "Medical Physics" as the Area of Research Interest. Applicants to the PhD program should choose "PhD" under the degree plan question and then select "Medical Physics" as the Area of Research Interest. It is not necessary for PhD applicants to select additional areas of research interest if they are truly interested only in medical physics.

Return to the Topics

Application Deadline - January 4, 2018

Both the SMS and the PhD programs require that all elements of the application, including testing scores and letters of recommendation, be received by January 4, 2018. Some MS programs in the Graduate School have later deadlines, but the application deadline for the SMS in Medical Physics is the same as that for the PhD.

Return to the Topics

Testing

The Graduate School requires that all applicants have taken the Verbal, Quantitative and Analytical components of the Graduate Record Examination. The code to have your scores sent to the Graduate School is 6907. It is listed as "The University of Texas - Houston." The Medical Physics Program does not require a subject examination, but is glad to receive the scores of applicants who have taken one. You can see the average testing scores of our past few entering classes in the table below.

Students who are not native speakers of English and whose previous languages of instruction at the university level have not included English are required to take the Test of English as a Foreign Language. The Graduate School does not accept the IELTS.

We encourage applicants to give themselves enough time to be able to take these examinations a second time if they are not pleased by their initial scores. Experience shows that many students do better when they take these examinations again.

Return to the Topics

Factors That Are Considered in Admissions

The Admissions Committee of the Medical Physics Program considers many factors in assessing the applicants to the program including

The applicant's statements are read very carefully by the committee. It is trying to envision each applicant as a future medical physicist, and thus the statements are essential to a well-received application.

Return to the Topics

Prerequisites and Desirable Preparation

Most applicants to medical physics come from backgrounds in undergraduate physics. Other fields of study from which some of our recent students have come are nuclear engineering and biomedical engineering. What is essential is that the student have had the equivalent of a minor in physics. That means three or more courses at the junior, senior or graduate level that a physics major would take. Some such topics might be intermediate or advanced classical mechanics, quantum mechanics, intermediate or advanced electricity and magnetism, atomic physics, nuclear physics, modern physics, solid state physics, thermodynamics, optics, and statistical physics. The equivalent in a related scientific or engineering discipline (e.g., a thermodynamics or an E&M course in an engineering curriculum) would also meet this prerequisite.

An applicant's education in mathematics should include multivariate calculus and ordinary differential equations. Additional study in linear algebra and in probability and statistics is desirable. Computer programming and computer science courses are viewed favorably as are biology and chemistry courses.

Return to the Topics

Letters of Recommendation

Letters of recommendation are a very important part of the application. The admissions committee reads them with the aim of understanding the applicant better as a person and a student, and to envision the applicant as a future medical physicist, researcher and scholar. Professors, research mentors and work supervisors, especially in a medical physics setting, can often address these aspects of the applicant. Referees such as friends and colleagues who can speak only to the applicant's character, however sterling it might be, are not quite so helpful as those who have known the applicant in an academic, research or clinical setting. If an applicant is currently enrolled in or has graduated from a graduate degree program, one of the letters of recommendations must be from the applicant's academic or research advisor or mentor. If an applicant has more letters of recommendation than the application system will accept, please contact the Program; there is a work-around for this situation.

Return to the Topics

Interviews

Applicants who are initially ranked highly will be asked to interview prior to the program's deciding upon an offer of admission. Those who are in the continental United States will be invited to visit the Graduate School during one of its three recruiting weekends (which are actually held from Thursday through Saturday, usually in the middle of February, the end of February and the middle of March). Those who are farther away and cannot visit at their own expense will be interviewed by telephone or over the Internet. We do try to avoid conflicting with the interviewing dates of other medical physics programs, but that is not always possible. Not every applicant who is invited to interview will be offered admission.

The interview is an occasion for the applicant to get to know the Graduate School and the program better and, of course, for the program to get to know the applicant better. There will be opportunities to learn about the Graduate School, the City of Houston, and the research and educational resources and offerings of the program. The interviewee will meet numerous current students and faculty members. Unlike some other medical physics programs, an applicant need not find a research mentor at the interviewing stage. That comes after the matriculation of the successful applicants, through the research tutorials.

Return to the Topics

Matriculation

The Graduate School is on an annual cycle and the normal time to matriculate is in late August at the start of the academic year. In extra-ordinary circumstances, admitted students may defer matriculation for up to one year, but this is not encouraged because the sequence of courses in the medical physics program assumes that all students start in the fall semester.

Program Statistics

Information about Our Recent Entering Classes

In general, we like to see applicants with undergraduate grade point averages above 3.0, GRE scores above 310 and TOEFL scores above 100. The table below demonstrates that the students who join our program substantially exceed those expectations on the average.

Academic
Year
Recruitment Graduate Record Examination Prior GPA Gender
# Appl. # Offers % Offered # Accept % Accept Verbal Quant. Analyt. V+Q Undergrad. Grad. Female Male
2017 SMS 16 2 12% 2 100% 157 162 3.8 319 3.49   1 1
PhD 68 9 13% 6 67% 157 166 4.1 323 3.58 3.62 2 4
2016 SMS 16 3 19% 3 100% 156 161 4.3 317 3.64

3.8

2 1
PhD 68 8 12% 6 75% 155 163 4.2 318 3.67 3.58 3 3
2015 SMS 11 4 36% 3 75% 161 161 4.5 322 3.69   1 2
PhD 63 12 19% 9 75% 159 161 4.4 320 3.63 3.72 4 5
2014 SMS 16 4 25% 3 75% 154 158 4 312 3.62   2 1
PhD 91 12 13% 8 67% 159 162 4 321 3.59 3.96 2 6
2013 SMS 22 3 14% 2 67% 154 160 4 314

3.3

  2  
PhD 62 13 21% 8 62% 161 163 4.2 324 3.6   5 3
2012 SMS 27 4 15% 4 100% 161 160 3.9 321 3.3   3 1
PhD 86 10 12% 7 70% 156 161 4.4 317 3.7   4 3

Return to the Topics

Information about Our Recent Program Students and Graduates

Our recent graduates have all found employment, a residency, or a post-doctoral fellowship or have pursued further education upon graduation from our program.

Calendar Year Students in the Program Graduates Therapy Residency Imaging Residency Junior Medical Physicist & Faculty Further Graduate Study Post-doctoral Fellowship Industry
2017 SMS 5 3       3    
PhD 37 7 3 1 1   2  
2016 SMS 7 2       2    
PhD 38 8 2 2 2   2  
2015 SMS 6 2 1 1        
PhD 46 9 3 2 3   1  
2014 SMS 5 4 2   1 1    
PhD 44 8 4   2   2  
2013 SMS 11 5 1   3 1    
PhD 41 4     4      


Return to the Topics

Being a Student in the Program

Financial Assistance

All PhD students in the Graduate School are funded. For the 2018-2019 academic year, this support consists of an annual stipend of $32,000 along with tuition, fees and benefits that include health insurance. The Graduate School itself provides this support for the first 16 months after which a student's research advisor will fund that support. PhD students are expected to devote themselves 100% to their studies and research. They are neither expected nor allowed to work (outside of their school work). The Graduate School has a number of fellowships for students (see https://gsbs.uth.edu/admissions/financial-assistance.htm and https://gsbs.uth.edu/current-students/awards-and-funding-opportunities/scholarships-and-fellowships.htm). In some cases, PhD students who receive fellowships may augment their basic stipends. Students are also encouraged to apply for national fellowships such as the F31 awards from the National Institutes of Health. Both the Graduate School and the Medical Physics Program have resources to assist students in applying for such national awards.

For SMS students, a limited number of partial stipends might be available, but this is not assured. First year support has been quite modest in recent years and SMS applicants should anticipate bearing a signficant portion of the cost of their education and living expenses themselves. Most SMS students are supported to some extent by their research advisors after the first year, but, again, this is not assured. SMS students are allowed to be gainfully employed outside of school if they are not fully funded.

Return to the Topics

Waivers of Required Courses and Transfer Credit

When a student in our program has previously received the education that is offered in one of our required courses, the student may petition for a waiver of the requirement to take the course. No credit is conferred (i.e., we do not have transfer credits) and the minimum number of hours to graduate remains the same. The principle advantage of waiving courses is that it frees up time to take electives or to work harder on research.

Return to the Topics

Tobacco Use

Graduate students who receive a pay check from MD Anderson are subject to its policies, including one that started in calendar year 2015 that forbids the hiring of tobacco users by the institution. Graduate students who are supported by other means are not presently subject to this policy, even if they have a desk and conduct their research at MD Anderson. For example, the policy does not apply to a first or second year PhD student who is supported by GSBS funding. However, if that student were to join the lab of an MD Anderson advisor, he or she would become subject to the policy when the advisor started to support the student. In the case of the Medical Physics Program, the vast majority of our students will ultimately receive support from an MD Anderson source and thus would be affected sooner or later by this policy.

Return to the Topics

Durations of the SMS and PhD Programs

The Specialized Master of Science degree may be earned comfortably in two to two and one-half years. However, with the requirement of the American Board of Radiology that its examinees have completed a CAMPEP-accredited residency and the tendency of residencies to start in the middle of the summer, our SMS students now have to plan very carefully in order to be able to finish their course work and research and to defend their theses early in their second summer in the program in order to go straight from the SMS program to a residency.

The Doctor of Philosophy degree typically takes about five years. In common with our SMS students, PhD students must now plan the completion of their research and the defense of their dissertations around the starting times of residencies.

Return to the Topics

Graduate Certificate in Medical Physics

In addition to the SMS and PhD programs, the GSBS offers a Graduate Certificate in Medical Physics. The certificate program is intended for those who already have a PhD in physics or a related discipline and are interested in obtaining the didactic education in medical physics that is required by residency programs and by the American Board of Radiology. Some of the requirements for admission to this program are a PhD in physics or in a related discipline plus at least a minor in physics (see the Prerequisites and Desirable Preparation section above for what this means) and medical physics research experience at MD Anderson or UTHealth. Those who are interested are invited to contact the Program for more information.

Return to the Topics

For Further Information