Program Evolution and History


This graduate program was started as an interdisciplinary graduate program under the name Biophysical Sciences in the 1950s by Dr. Otto Schmidt to encourage collaboration among biologists, chemists, and physicists. Then, as now, faculty had their salaried appointments in various home departments, including departments within the Medical School, but participated in Biophysical Sciences because of their interests in collaborative, interdisciplinary projects.

The 1960s & 1970s

By the late 1960s and early 1970s, disciplines such as biophysics, biochemistry, physical chemistry, etc. were established in the mainstream, so the emphasis in Biophysical Sciences shifted to health informatics (integration of computers for modeling and data base analysis) and medical applications of biochemistry with Dr. Gene Ackerman and Dr. Russell K. Hobbie as Directors of Graduate Studies.

The 1980s & 1990s

By the late 1980s the computerization of all disciplines had become routine and most of the faculty had minimized their participation in the Biophysical Sciences Program. At about that time, however, a resurgence of interest in applications of various disciplines to problems in “radiologic sciences” – medical imaging, radiation therapy, and radiobiology – resulted in a renewal of interest in the program. In the US, the field of radiologic science is known as a profession by the term “Medical Physics”. Thus, by the early 1990’s the emphasis of the program had shifted to Medical Physics. In 1993, the program underwent an internal review under the direction of Associate Dean Kenneth Zimmerman at the request of Vice President and Dean Anne Petersen. The purpose of the review was to explore the future of involvement of the Medical School in the program. E. Russell Ritenour, became Director of Graduate Studies at that time.

The 2000s through Today

In 2012, the name of the Biophysical Sciences and Medical Physics program was changed to Medical Physics to more closely align the name of the program with the focus of the majority of the students in the program. The program as it currently stands focuses on Medical Physics but does not preclude the student from having a graduate project that is outside the traditional borders of Medical Physics. This is due to the fact that there are several professors associated with the program that have interests aligned with Medical Physics that are not purely clinical in focus. To aid in this transition of the program and to promote the accreditation process, Bruce J. Gerbi, PhD was installed as Interim Program Director.