Physics/General Programs 108b

Physics in Modern Medicine:

Applications in Imaging, Surgery and Therapy

Prof. Suzanne Amador Kane

Koshland INSC Link L103

Office Hours: TBA

Phone: (610) 896-1198, email:

Spring Semester Haverford College


Information for Instructors & Teaching Medical Physics

To reach the book website, click here

Course description (brief overview, prerequisites) Class meeting times and location
Course requirements / Information about Posters Grading/Late Policy/Honor Code/Accommodations
Syllabus (includes weekly assignments, exams, etc.) Resources

Course description

This course introduces the nonscientist to technologies important to modern medicine, and the basic physical and physiological principles which underlie them. Readings in a text prepared especially for this course, the popular scientific literature, and medical texts will treat both the scientific basis and societal implications of laparoscopic surgery, laser surgery, photodynamic therapy, ultrasound imaging, x-ray and radionuclide imaging, computer tomography (CAT or CT scans), positron emission tomography (PET scans), radiation therapy and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Specific medical applications discussed will include (but are not limited to): colon cancer screening, arthroscopic knee surgery, laser eye surgery, dermatological laser surgery, obstetrical ultrasound, cardiovascular ultrasound, mammography, osteoporosis screening, cancer radiation therapy, and applications of PET and MRI brain scans in neuroscience.

Enrollment Limits/Who should take this course: This course is limited to an enrollment of 40. Preference is given to seniors. Natural science majors may take it as an elective, although they should consult with the instructor before doing so.

Prerequisites: None. Only precalculus-level mathematics will be used.

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Textbook & Readings

The main text for the course is Introduction to Physics in Modern Medicine, by Suzanne Amador Kane, Taylor and Francis Publishers, 2003, available at the Haverford Bookstore. I have submitted the second edition of this book to my publisher, but unfortunately it won't be ready by spring semester.  I will use the new materials in lectures so you won't miss out on new developments!  New sections of the textbook will be posted on Blackboard.  Reserve copies are available in White Science and Collier Libraries. Additional reserve readings can be found in the KINSC Science Library.

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Class meeting times and location

There will be two one and one-half hour lectures every week, TuTh 10-11:30, in Koshland Integrated Natural Sciences Center (KINSC) H109.

You are welcome to attend Physics Clinic every Wednesday and Thursday night 7-10pm in KINSC H107 (the Physics Lounge) to get help with the homework.  I will also post office hours, and you should use these if you wish help with assignments, or just to come talk.

You are expected to attend all class meetings and you are responsible for any missed material or announcements. Absences due to athletics, interviews, etc. should be preceded by an email to the instructor to set up a makeup assignment. More than two absences for reasons other than illness per semester would be considered excessive, and may be considered in grading.

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Course Requirements

Homework assignments will be distributed roughly every two weeks in class, and due one week later at the beginning of class. The due date will be posted on the actual assignment.  See the syllabus below for more details and a likely schedule of assignments. There will be one take-home midterm exam and a self-scheduled final exam. Both will be closed-book, closed-notes, but you may prepare two sheets of helpful information to guide you in doing the problems, and these may contain anything you would find helpful.  The homework assignments and exams will contain a combination of short quantitative problem-solving and essay-style questions;  you may consult the syllabus and the course textbook to see what these look like. There will be one poster session as well (see details below).

Exams must be completed and turned in by the announced deadline unless special arrangements have been made in advance with the instructor, or unless you obtain a Dean's permission.  I will survey the class for conflicts before scheduling the midterm, so that's the time to register with me (in advance!) any collisions with other commitments.

Poster Session

There will be one poster session assigned this semester. This presentation will address the topics covered in the course from a perspective chosen by the student in cooperation with the instructor;  a list of possible topics is posted on our course website to give you ideas. For the poster presentation, students may work in teams of two people. For example, in past years, students have presented posters on the history of a particular imaging technique, the application of a medical technology to a particular disease or condition, and unequal access to medical resources due to socioeconomic status. The expected level is that of a journalist writing a news article, although a full bibliography and careful citation of sources is required. The poster session will be described in more detail in class. 

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In determining the course grade, the following weighting will be used:

You will be able to view your relative standing and approximate grade throughout the semester on Blackboard's Grade Center.

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Late Assignment Policy

You may turn in two homework assignments up to one week late with no penalty. (Save these freebie lates for when you need them!) You need to email me when you are taking one of these "free" extensions, indicating which you are taking an extension on and when you plan to turn it in.

Thereafter, late assignments will be graded according to the following formula:
Up to one week late: 75%
Up to two weeks late: 50%

Assignments will be graded up to one month after the due date, but not thereafter unless you have a Dean's permission.

Honor Code Issues

The instructor values Haverford's honor code for the integrity it fosters and the pedagogical flexibility it affords.  I expect your cooperation in respecting the following guidelines.  Please request clarification whenever necessary.


Students who think they may need accommodations in this course because of the impact of a disability are encouraged to meet with the instructor privately early in the semester.  Students should also contact Rick Webb, Coordinator, Office of Disabilities Services (, 610-896-1290) to verify their eligibility for reasonable accommodations as soon as possible.  Early contact will help to avoid unnecessary inconvenience and delays.

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Assignments and On-line Course Information

All assignments and solutions will be posted online on the TRIPOD Blackboard system. You may turn in homework assignments up until 5pm in my office on the due date. See the Late Policy and Honor Code above for additional information about extensions and other matters.

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Syllabus (approximate)

Week of Topic & Readings Assignments Exams & Due Dates
20 Jan

Intro; Optics: Endoscopic and laparoscopic surgery

Read Chapters 1 & 2 (OMIT section 2.2.4, which we will not cover in lecture)

HW1 out

Chapter 2: Questions 1 & 2; Problems 2.1, 2.4, 2.5, 2.6, 2.7

HW1 Due Fri. Jan 30
27 Jan

Endoscopy continued; Videos; Virtual Surgery, Telemedicine

Read New Chapter 2 sections on Blackboard


HW1 Due Fri. Jan 30
3 Feb

Laser Surgery--applications in ophthalmology, dermatology, general surgery, photodynamic therapy

Read Chapter 3 sections 3.1 to 3.9

HW2 out

Chapter 3: Questions 3.2, 3.4, 3.7

Problems 3.1, 3.2, 3.3, 3.5

HW2 due Fri Feb 13
10 Feb

Laser Surgery continued

Read Chapter 3 sections 3.10 to end; 3.4;  new section 3.19 on Blackboard


HW2 due Fri Feb 13
17 Feb

Ultrasound Imaging--applications in obstetrics and cardiology

Read Chapter 4:  sections 4.1 to 4.9

Topic of Poster Session (plus short bibliography & choice of partner) Due Fri Feb. 27


Topic of Poster Session (plus short bibliography & choice of partner) Due Fri Mar 6

HW3 due Fri Feb 27

24 Feb

Ultrasound continued--applications in obstetrics and cardiology

Read Chapter 4: sections 4.10 to end; new section 4.18 on Blackboard

HW3 out

Chapter 4:

Problems 4.2, 4.4,4.6 (also for Problem 4.6, make a sketch of the approximate echo intensity vs. time plot you would expect, similar to that shown in Figure 4.9(a) on page 105);. 4.8, 4.10, 4.12, 4.13


HW3 due Fri Feb 27

Topic of Poster Session (and your choice of partner) , plus a short bibliography of sources (5 + sources with full citations)

3 Mar

Tuesday:  Finish ultrasound imaging;  talk about epidemiology.

Thursday:  X-ray imaging--applications in mammography, osteoporosis screening

Read Chapter 5 (start before break to keep up with topics in lecture, finish over break) ; new section 5.9 on Blackboard

No homework over break (but, you are studying for the Midterm & preparing your first round of Poster Session materials now)

HW3 due Fri Mar 6

17 Mar

Tues.  Review sessions this week--stay tuned for schedule

X-ray imaging continued--applications: Computer Tomography (CT scans)


Read Chapter 5 ; new section 5.9 on Blackboard


HW4 out (shorter than usual due to the Midterm)

Chapter 5: Question 5.6

Problems 5.3, 5.5, 5.8, 5.11

Take-home Midterm

Out Tues. Mar. 17; due Wed. Mar. 25 5pm in my office --Covers Chapters 2,3,4, other topics covered in lecture

24 Mar

Nuclear Medicine: radionuclide imaging, bone scans; PET imaging, nuclear medicine imaging of the brain

Read Chapter 6


HW4 due Wed. April 1
31 Mar

Nuclear Medicine continued

Read Chapter 6, including updated section 6.6 and new 6.7 on Blackboard

HW5 out

Chapter 6: Problems 6.4, 6.6 (Half-lives in Table 6.4 are in minutes), 6.7, 6.8, 6.9

(Note for problem 6.6 that the lecture from Week 11 (lecture 1 & 2) has a discussion of how to use logarithms to do problems like this, in addition to the book’s discussion of logarithms.)

7 April

Poster session during class time this week

Geoffrey Kabat visit this week 4:30 talk (note:  not during lecture)

Poster session during class time this week


Poster session


14 April

Radiation medicine and safety: cancer radiation therapy

Read Chapter 7:  section 7.1 to 7.5 (new version of 7.4 on Blackboard


HW5 due Weds. April 22
21 April

Finish Radiation medicine and safety continued.; cancer radiation therapy

Start Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

Read Chapter 7:  7.6 to end, including new section 7.8 on Blackboard

Chapter 8 (exact readings to be announced--will cover excerpts only)

HW6 out

Chapter 7: Question 7.2 & 7.3, Problem 7.1. 7.2, 7.3
Chapter 8: Question 8.1

HW6 due Fri. May 1
28 April

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI: applications in sports medicine, breast imaging, brain imaging)

Chapter 8 (exact readings to be announced)


HW6 due Fri. May 1

Friday May 1

Last day of classes

Finals Period Self-scheduled Final Finals Final Exam--emphasis on material since the midterm

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List of Possible Poster Topics

The Internet is a valuable and up-to-date resource for information about medical physics, and we will make extensive use of it throughout the semester. This section will contain listings of relevant internet resources for each section of the course. The following were chosen more for their interest to general audiences than for completeness. Let your instructor know of interesting and useful sites you find on your own!

FDA Center for Devices and Radiological Health is a good starting place for examining issues relating to medical device safety and regulation. An online journal of resources on bioethics

Physlets for using with Medical physics:

"Modern Medical Miracles" Kansas State Website on Medical Imaging, with various resources

Laparoscopy on-line resources

1ST STOP This very interesting and detailed site explains some specifics about laparoscopic surgery of various types, and includes case studies, movies and images drawn from a variety of areas.

Atlas of Gastrointestinal Endoscopy

Fiberoptic Biosensors being developed in the lab of Dr. David R. Walt at Tufts University; check out commercial applications at Illumina Corp.

An interview with physician Col. R.M. Satava, MD. about telemedicine and its applications in the military and civilian medicine.

CRASAR (Center for Robot-Assisted Search and Rescue)--read about how telemedicine and robotics are helping save lives in natural disasters and the aftermaths of terrorist attacks

CNN News report Read about the remarkable Video Pill here and see movies taken inside the body.

Laser Surgery

Beckman Institute: a prominent research institution which also offers various dermatological laser surgery procedures

Laser Eye Surgery site on LASIK and other techniques

Explanations of Refractive Errors using helpful animations explaining how LASIK and other refractive eye surgery works

Ultrasound Imaging

1ST STOP Obstetrical Ultrasound website by Dr. Joe Woo

Should Ultrasound Imaging go commercial? Companies like are marketing fetal imaging.

X-ray imaging

Check out these websites for a discussion of how x-ray imaging and Computed Tomography (CT) scanning work: Physics 2000: Einstein's Legacy

Nuclear Medicine

1ST STOP Let's Play PET

Radiation Therapy

Magnetic Resonance Imaging

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This page maintained by Suzanne Amador Kane,, Last updated 1/06/2006