Medical physics training

Teaching within the department has many benefits, not only for us – the ‘experts’ - to exercise our expertise, but also as an opportunity for us to benefit from the enquiring minds of our students.

Female student in library
On

Overview

Our student cohorts range from first year undergraduate level up to postgraduate and beyond. Medical Physics is a fascinating discipline that fundamentally applies the principles of physics to the real-life medical world. We strive to inject enthusiasm and incorporate interesting methods with our teaching with intriguing exercises for students not only to pique curiosity, but also to cement understanding. The opportunities presented by online learning have introduced a whole new set of challenges for effective teaching/learning and new approaches are being explored. Our simulation tools open interesting avenues for learning, offering insight about structures/fluids and imaging, mediated by both interactive computer simulations and virtual reality.

Medical Physics undergraduate in a clinical setting
Medical Physics undergraduate in a clinical setting

Connections

Medical Physics is a broad discipline that crosses many boundaries. Although based in the Medical School, we also have strong connections with the University’s Engineering and Physics departments. Our emphasis is always the physics in medicine, with objectives relating to an appreciation of rigour, the value of approximation and the power of modelling.  This sits well with our position within the Medical faculty, since academic Medical Physics is part of the Mathematical Modelling in Medicine (MMM) group which itself has a cardiovascular focus. This is an interesting domain that matches the breadth of our interests since it invokes vascular dynamics/biomechanics and imaging as well as seeking predictive outputs based on simulation. Fundamentally we are a simulation group, and this influences all of our teaching. 

Teaching

Undergraduate Teaching

Exploring the colon in VR
Project example #1: exploring the colon in virtual reality

Medical Physics supports the MBChB and BMedSci undergraduate programmes within the Faculty of Medicine, and offers 6 modules at undergraduate level as core material contributing to the Physics with Medical Physics degrees:

Computing flow disturbances in curved vessels
Project example #2: computing flow disturbances in curved vessels

Our taught material is also core for several Bioengineering courses hosted by the Faculty of Engineering. Undergraduate research projects are integral to these degrees and every year we supervise 10 to 15 students addressing clinically facing problems. The clinically relevant topics are valued by the students and the research is valuable for proof of concept studies; numerous examples have progressed to become funded PhDs. Increasingly we also host undergraduate summer projects for periods of 6 to 10 weeks.

Postgraduate Teaching

In contrast to our long established involvement in undergraduate teaching, our involvement with postgraduate courses is a new and emerging area. Our expertise in simulation comes to the fore here, and supports several postgraduate modules.

  • In silico mini-project
  • Simulation and virtual reality
  • X-rays and imaging

PhD Training

It is our conviction that the PhD is as much an exercise in training as it is an exercise in research. Important skills to be developed as part of this approach are critical analysis, rigour and communication. Development of a training skills portfolio strengthens the student’s CV and helps to prepare him/her for employment at the end of the period of study. 

Expertise in developing structured training programmes to support PhD research stems from participation in collaborations both at local level, including strong links with the Insigneo Institute for In Silico Medicine (situated within the Faculty of Engineering), and internationally through European Training Networks (MeDDiCA and VPH-CaSE) and more recently the Sano Centre, Krakow, Poland.

Professional

Numerous clinical professional groups require domain specific teaching for purposes of professional accreditation. Examples include clinical scientist training and radiology (FRCR); we have a long history of training in such areas. Contact with such professionals keeps our material clinically relevant and up-to-date, and often poses challenges as we try to communicate technical topics to non-domain experts in an informative manner. Our simulation expertise can produce models that have much to contribute here. Recent examples include development of a smartphone app for teaching the value of DRLs in radiology, and a virtual reality teaching environment that consolidates understanding of X-ray physics.

Summary

Medical physics teaching at IICD in Sheffield is rooted in simulation applied to biomechanics, imaging and cardiovascular medicine. It is deployed at all levels of study and supports students from undergraduate to professional accreditation. We pride ourselves on effective and innovative methods for teaching, which most often emerge from our capabilities with simulation.

People, Projects & Publications

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