interviews, medical physics, non-clinical tracks

I am about to graduate – what on earth do I do now? 10 things you can do NOW to get a job and move your career forward

physics todayOur post on “Inside Look into the MedPhys Match: Part II” will be available in the coming weeks, but we wanted to share with you this important and exciting webinar that will take place on April 30th from 2:00-3:00 PM EDT. You can register by going to this link:

Free Webinar on 10 Things You Can Do NOW to Get a Job 

About this webinar:

Whether you started career planning and job searching a year ago, a month ago or today, there are a few things you can do to get the ball rolling to land a job you enjoy.

  • Number 1: Don’t Panic! It’s never too late to launch a thoughtful strategy designed to land you employment.
  • Number 2: Know you are valuable in myriad industries and ecosystems. In this webinar, you will learn specific tasks you can do RIGHT NOW to get a job and advance in your career. You will emerge with a solid and strategic plan that you can adapt at any stage of your career, but is especially valuable for those who are about to graduate or finish their postdoc and haven’t lined up a position yet.
  • And perhaps equally important, you will leave the webinar feeling more confident and excited about what your near (and far) future holds for you.

About Your Presenter:
Alaina G. Levine is an award-winning entrepreneur, science journalist, science and engineering careers consultant, professional speaker and corporate comedian. Her new book, Networking for Nerds, will be published by Wiley in 2015. As President of Quantum Success Solutions, she has been advising scientists and engineers about their careers for over 15 years. She has given over 600 workshops and seminars for clients in the US, Europe and Mexico, and is the author of over 200 articles pertaining to science, engineering, science careers and business in such publications as Science, Nature, World Economic Forum, Smithsonian, Scientific American, IEEE Spectrum, & COSMOS. As a science careers journalist, Levine constantly researches employment trends in STEM fields and delivers up-to-date vital information about STEM career issues from interviews with hiring managers, decision-makers and recruiters in myriad industries. Levine has also served as a Contributor to National Geographic and currently pens the career columns for Physics Today and APS News.

clinical medical physics, medical physics, professionalism

AAPM 2014 Annual Meeting: Networking Opportunities

The AAPM 2014 Annual Meeting is quickly approaching! The thought on the minds of many students and trainees is, simply put: “How can I meet potential employers?” This post will guide you through the networking opportunities and skill-building workshops offered by this year’s meeting, in the hopes that you can use this information to find the employer of your dreams.

1. Before You Get There: Prepare!

But, make sure you prepare prior to traveling to the meeting:

Make your resume available on the AAPM Career Services website.

Print 10+ copies of your resume to bring with you. These hard copies can be posted to the resume wall at the Career Services kiosk.

– Craft your Elevator Pitch: who you are, what/who you work with, and what you can do for the interested party.

Sample Elevator Pitch (Resident Jane Smith to a Varian representative):

“Great to meet you! I’m Jane Smith and I’m a therapy physics resident at Medical Center USA. I started working with Varian machines in my graduate work and have continued working with Varian during my residency. I’ve become aware of the strengths and limitations of Varian’s latest technology and I’m interested in using my experience and therapy physics skills to help continue to improve Varian equipment.”

2. When You Get There: Go Get ‘Em, Tiger!

This year’s meeting program offers exciting scientific talks and much more, including sessions specifically designed for networking and professional skill building. These opportunities can be organized into three major categories:

(a) Council Symposia, Association Meetings, and Town Hall

(b) Interview Skill-Building Workshops

(c) Exhibition Hall and Vendor Presentations

(a) Council Symposia, Association Meetings, and Town Hall

The AAPM has four Councils: Science, Education, Professional, and Administrative. The council meetings are open to the general AAPM membership. This year, there are also 3 major Association Meetings and many Committee and Working Group Meetings which are also open to general AAPM members. If you’re really interested in a particular subcommittee/working group – go ahead and email the chair to ask if you can participate in that meeting. If you’re interested in becoming more involved in AAPM and meeting the members that drive our organization, these meetings are a must!

Saturday, July 19

8:00 AM – 10:00 PM – Committee and Working Group Meetings begin (continue through out the week)

Sunday, July 20

9:30 – 11:00 AM: AAPM Medical Physics Student Meeting

9:30 – 11:00 AM: Education Council Symposium

11:00 AM – 12:30 PM: Professional Council Symposium

Tuesday, July 22

4:30 – 6:00 PM: New Member Symposium

Wednesday, July 23

6:15 – 7:00 PM: AAPM Annual Business and Town Hall Meeting

(b) Interview Skill-Building Workshops

There are two interview workshops offered by the Professional Council and the Students and Trainees Subcommittee. These workshops are a great opportunity to work on  your communication and presence during interviews while interacting with established AAPM members and faculty in medical physics. Why not try out that great elevator pitch on your interviewer while you’re at it?

Monday, July 21

7:30 – 8:25 AM: Interview Like Your Job Depended On It!

4:30 – 6:00 PM: AAPM STSC Mock Interviews (pre-registration required)

(c) Exhibition Hall and Vendor Presentations

Interfacing with vendors is a great way to learn about industry and employment opportunities (not to mention, Landauer and Vassar Brothers offer residencies). Even if you’re not sold on an industry career, it’s very likely that you will continue to collaborate with vendors throughout your career. Many vendors will also host User Group Meetings, which may include lunch or dinner (search your favorite vendor’s site for details). The user group meetings are usually designed for physicists who currently use the vendor’s equipment or are interested in buying it, but the small setting (along with free food) is certainly conducive to networking.

This year’s meeting has also blocked out specific time for visiting with vendors and has established the “Partners in Solutions” sessions for both imaging and therapy, during which vendors present practical information that can be translated directly into the clinic. You’ll have the opportunity to meet vendor representatives in a smaller setting where you’re encouraged to ask questions.

Monday, July 21:

11:15 AM – 12:15 PM – Partners in Solutions, Imaging: CT Dose Optimization Technologies I

2:45 – 3:45 PM – Partners in Solutions,Therapy: Tools for TG-142 Linac Imaging QA I

Tuesday, July 22:

11:15 AM – 12:15 PM – Partners in Solutions, Imaging: CT Dose Optimization Technologies II

Wednesday, July 23:

11:15 AM – 12:15 PM – Partners in Solutions, Therapy: Tools for TG-142 Linac Imaging QA II

 3. Conclusion: Be Social!

AAPM’s Students and Trainees Subcommittee hosts the annual Student Night Out, where student members can meet and have some fun. There are several other events in this year’ s Social Program, including a 5K in memory of Dr. Charles Lescrenier and a general Night Out at the Texas State Museum.

The AAPM Annual Meeting is a great opportunity to make connections and maybe even be asked for an informal interview. And don’t be too shy to accept after-hours social invitations; go out and get to know other members! It’s the perfect time to be social while learning about new initiatives and great research in medical physics.

medical physics, non-clinical tracks, professionalism

Interviews with Non-Clinical Medical Physicists

In the field of medical physics, it might seem that a clinical position is the only option. However, medical physicists play significant roles outside of the hospital. Along with an excellent understanding of radiation physics, medical physics training provides one with the ability to analyze systems and provide effective troubleshooting, which is why a medical physicist can be successful in many fields.

On that note, we’ve briefly interviewed three medical physicists who have achieved success and satisfaction in entrepreneurship, in a state regulatory body, and in academia.

Question: Who is your current employer and what is your position?

Entrepreneur (Ent):

Mobius Medical Systems, LP, Founder.

Regulatory (Reg):

        Agreement State Radioactive Materials Program Manager

Academia (Aca):

I am a faculty member at an academic medical center. My primary responsibilities are research and teaching; I have a little bit of clinical responsibilities. I supervise graduate students and postdocs.

 QuestionWhat attracted you to your current position? What advantages have kept you in that role?


The ability to design products used at thousands of clinics, rather than a handful of clinics. I couldn’t get out now if I tried =).


At first, it was a matter of job availability. When I finished my masters in medical physics I was faced with a limited choice of accredited residencies.

Another thing that attracted me was the challenges involved. As an inspector you need to work with a wide variety of individuals ranging from construction personnel, to engineers, to doctors, and conventionally careered medical physicists. Working alongside this dynamic group to promote radiation safety and compliance is never the same and is always gratifying.

Regulators need to stay on top of the latest technologies to know what is being licensed and how it should be utilized. No two days have been the same for me since I started nearly a year ago now and I’ve learned a great deal beyond my medical physics and nuclear engineering backgrounds.

A major tradeoff though is that a clinical medical physicist will make more money; however, the lifestyle of being a state or federal employee will likely keep me in my role for some time to come.


There are many attractions – I get to work with incredibly bright and incredibly talented colleagues, postdocs and graduate students. We have a tremendous amount of autonomy in terms of the research that we perform and the specific topics that we investigate. The background that a medical physicist can provide in these research questions can be critical to successful research; the blend of basic understanding of the physical phenomena and the ability to interface with MDs is vital.

QuestionWhich other disciplines did you compete with for this position? What about your medical physics training gave you an advantage?


I only had to compete with my wife letting me start a business.


Most of the people that apply for state level radiation regulatory positions have a bachelor’s degree in a science or engineering field. Rarely these individuals have a background specific to radiation. During my last hiring I interviewed for three positions and had about forty applicants. Of those, only two had some radiation training. Having a medical physics degree will put you at the top of the list under categories such as education and experience.

Though my program licenses all uses of radioactive material (industrial, academic, medical, etc), the vast majority of our licensees are medicals. A background in medical physics prepares you for understanding of the theory for most procedures in the field as well as the biological and safety effects that they may induce. This gives a vast advantage over someone else who has no prior knowledge of radiation use and effects. On average it takes about two years for an inspector to become trained and qualified, but I would suspect most people with a medical physics background would have dramatically reduced qualification times.


Sometimes we compete with biomedical engineers for these positions, but the advantage that medical physicists often have is their fundamental understanding of the underlying physics of the problem at hand – such as the physics of image formation processes (x-ray interactions with tissue, MR signal formation, etc.). Engineers sometimes have to treat the imaging device as a black box and just accept what comes out of it; while physicists can often times open the black box and try to manipulate or control what comes out of it.

QuestionHow can current medical physics students prepare for a position like yours?


I don’t recommend founding a new company, but in general those interested in product design should become familiar with programming (whether or not they will be a programmer) and really pay attention to how users interact with products (what confuses them, what they inherently understand, what their needs are, etc.).


My weakest knowledge area when starting with the state was the regulations, plain and simple. I was given a brief overview of some regulatory references during my education, but not near enough. I’m still learning some of the finer details to this day. I would recommend someone become very familiar with title 10 of the Code of Federal Regulations (10 CFR) which maintains all of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s rules.The rest of your training will set you up more than well enough for success.


Getting a PhD in medical physics is essentially required if you want to do research, but the biggest requirement is to keep asking questions. Be persistent (and sometimes stubborn) and don’t always accept the standard answers. It is ok to ask why we do things a certain way – and why not another way.

Next Post: DMP? Master’s? Ph.D? Which path should I take?

Although each path is dependent on one’s individual goals, many students worry about which degree will provide them with a competitive advantage. In our next post, we will present information and discuss the pros and cons of the Professional Doctorate in Medical Physics, Masters and Ph.D degrees.

clinical medical physics, residencies

The Issue of Residencies

Mayo Clinic Residency Program in Medical Physics

In the recent AAPM newsletter, Dr. George Starkschall responded to two major issues that he has encountered while serving as the Chair of the Education Council. In this post, we will summarize the issues and major points made by Dr. Starkschall. These issues are specific to medical physics students who are working towards full certification by the American Board of Radiology (ABR) and want a clinical position.

Issue 1: Short-term supply of residents

“Are there going to be a sufficient number of residents to meet workforce needs after the 2014 deadline that requires candidates who wish to take the ABR exam to complete a CAMPEP-accredited residency?”

Dr. Starkschall feels that the current number of CAMPEP-approved (and pending approval) residency programs will provide enough residents to meet the minimum expected demand in both imaging and radiation therapy. In order to support more residency programs, the AAPM and RSNA have collaborated to establish residency program funding for three new programs: the University of Alabama-BirminghamMemorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, and University of Wisconsin.

Furthermore, some residency programs are incorporating private physics practices into a “hub-and-spoke” model. The residency program serves as the hub for multiple residents, providing infrastructure, any necessary classes, and possibly resident stipends. Each private practice offers one position for training and supervision of the resident in a clinical setting.

Issue 2: Surplus of medical physics graduates

“What is the AAPM doing about the mismatch between numbers of students graduating from accredited graduate programs and the number of residency positions available for these graduates?”

Dr. Starkschall explains that this issue is a nuanced one. Overall, there are simply less residency positions than there are students graduating from CAMPEP-accredited medical physics programs. Annually, more Master’s degrees are awarded than Ph.D.’s. However, residency programs are more likely to accept Ph.D. graduates than Master’s.

The AAPM and medical physics graduate programs are making a great effort to increase the number of residency positions, with an emphasis on placing Master’s students in these positions. An alternative degree path, the professional doctorate program (DMP), offers a guaranteed residency position. Several graduate schools are hoping to establish DMP programs, following in the footsteps of Vanderbilt University. These initiatives will certainly mitigate the graduate/residency mismatch in the future.

Non-clinical careers exist

In the near future, it is very unlikely that every medical physics graduate will find a clinical residency position. But, the truth is: not everyone needs a clinical residency position. Medical physicists have successful careers outside the clinical setting: in entrepreneurship, in state and national regulatory bodies, in industry, and in academia.

In our next post, we will feature short interviews from non-clinical medical physicists.



Welcome to the Students and Trainees Subcommittee blog!

Here, we hope to disseminate information and discuss issues facing students and trainees in medical physics. We also aim to include relevant posts about potential clinical and non-clinical career paths in medical physics.