Physics is a branch of science concerned with the study of properties and interactions of space, time, matter and energy. Energy is required in one form or other and is very important for the survival of life on earth and its study attracts lot of attention. Radiation is also energy and is defined as energy (in the form of light, heat or sound) which travels through any medium or space and ultimately absorbed by another body. Radiation physics is a branch of Physics which deals with the interaction of the radiation with matter in general and involves calculation of doses for radiation therapy in medical field in particular. The radiations could be ionizing or non-ionizing depending on the energy carried by the photon. Since the ionizing radiations could be harmful, an important ethical question is the safe extent of exposure of the radiations to humans in the industry, research institutions or for medical diagnostics. From this very property of radiations to harm the human tissues, it is imperative to have trained personnel in the field who can provide the safety measures and expert handling of all such issues. In order to moniter the establishments dealing with radiations, Atomic Energy Regulatory board (AERB) was established on November 15, 1983. Its responsibility is to monitor the establishments using radiations and give them accreditation to use radiation facilities after fulfilling crieteria laid by the board. One of the mandatory requirements is to have radiation safety officer (RSO) in the organisation to monitor the usage of radiation and to curtail the extent of damage caused in case of any uneventful accident.
It is hoped that 25,000 MW of nuclear power capacity will be added through imports of nuclear reactors and fuel by 2020. With the increase of nuclear power plants in future, the human recourse for radiation safety measures will increase tremendously. Another area where the Radiation Physicist or Medical Physicist plays important role is the calculation of safe radiation doses in medical treatment with radiations. Here also crucial role of Radiation Physicist comes into play for calculation of doses. Thus radiation physics could not only be an alluring career option but also a challenging career with an aim for providing safety to the humans engaged in welfare of mankind by making constructive use of radiations.
Due to its tremendous scope for research besides application in medical diagnostics this has been a very active field. The field garners lots of interest because it has provided some of the path breaking inventions and has been instrumental in providing improved manufacturing processes, nuclear energy, and advanced medical diagnostic and treatment options. Further the field involves rich physics and generates interest from all, either physicist, biologist, chemists or medical fraternity. It is highly multidisciplinary in nature and is now backbone of the nuclear medical diagnostics.
Radiation physics is an active field of research and persons taking it as a career option can also go for the advance research as well in the field. Another point which makes it a lucrative career option is the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board’s (AERB) mandatory regulations of trained people in institutions dealing with the radiations. These institutions need to have trained radiation safety personnel for their routine work. Since hitherto it is less known field few people have ventured in this area, and the field is facing acute shortage of trained people available for organizations dealing with radiations, thus demand is high and excellent paid jobs are available.
With the increase and better prospects of trained radiation safety personnel’s, many universities like Osmania University, Anna University, Manipal University, Panjab University etc. have started diploma and degree courses in radiation Physics or medical physics besides the pioneering work done by BARC, Mumbai. Under AERB regulations all medical imaging and radiation therapy machines have to be evaluated by a Qualified Medical Physicist. The medical physicist oversees quality assurance programs and is a resource for ensuring the safe use of radiation in the medical setting.
Scope of Radiation Physicist and Medical Physicist: In recent years, there has been a great demand for qualified medical physicists in hospitals, radiotherapy centers and in certain industries/institutes. As per the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) stipulations, qualified medical physicists are must to establish radiotherapy centres/hospitals. Radiological physics has applications in diagnostics, therapy, nuclear medicine, industry, agriculture and research. The field experiences a dearth of technically sound people. Availability of more people with proper training is urgently required for carrying out the work related to radiation with a proper tab on the safe use of radiations. This will certainly enhance the quality of services provided to the nation and the public at large.
During training on radiations, safe use of radiation and radioisotopes in medicine, industry, agriculture and research is imparted to the students. The syllabus covers radiation physics, radiation chemistry, radiation biology, electronics and instrumentation, statistics, computational methods, applications of radioisotopes in medicine, industry research, agriculture and radiation hazards evaluation and control. The training is supplemented by exhaustive experiments, demonstrations, visit to hospitals, industries and institutes dealing with radiations.
Trained radiation physics and medical Physics professional provides radiation safety related advisory services to all medical, industrial, research and agricultural institutions in the country. The training of these professionals is so oriented as to reap maximum advantage of the modern technological developments and at the same time causing minimal harm to the occupational workers and members of the public at large. The industries or the institutions dealing with activities using radiation, need trained manpower on a regular basis. Also, continuous technological changes make it necessary to retrain the personnel working in these institutions and this is provided by short term courses conducted by the BARC, Mumbai.
The Radiation Physicist or Medical Physicist can work as: Medical Physicist: The treatment of patients with radiation involves planning, dosimetry, and quality assurance checks to be done meticulously in which the medical physicists play an important role. A lot of private hospitals are coming up with modern radiation therapy facilities in India and there is a definite demand for medical physicists. So the most shot of job for the medical Physcist is in the cancer hospitals. They can work alongside clinicians in providing scientific and technical expertise and conducting research. They are also qualified to serve as Radiological Safety Officers (RSO) in research and industrial institutions handling radioisotopes and ionizing radiations.
Radiation Physicist: The professionals with degree/diploma/training on radiation Physics can work as Radiological Safety Officers (RSO) in research and industrial institutions where ionizing radiations are used. For the job to be effectively done they have to be alert and only highly skilled people can handle the job effectively. Another area where radiation Physicist plays an important role is in increasing the shelf life of perishable agricultural products during large-scale packaging for export, the professionals are in demand in this sector too. Gamma irradiator is used in food irradiation plants to package the products. Along with this, Gamma irradiation can be used for irradiating seeds in order to make them fungal proof or disease resistance. So the radiation Physicist can have important role in all such places.
Given below are the tabulated details of the degree/diploma and the career options available.
Degree/Diploma Essential Qualification Career option
M.Sc.(Radiation Physics) B.Sc.(Life Sciences / Physics/ chemistry/mathematics) Research, option for higher studies in radiation physics, Medical Physicist in Hospitals and Oncology Departments
M.Sc. (Medical Physics) B.Sc.(Life Sciences /Physics/chemistry/mathematics) Research, option for higher studies in radiation physics or medical physics, Medical Physicist in Hospitals and Oncology Departments
Dip.In Radiological Physics(Dip.R.P) M.Sc. (Physics) Radiation safety officer, in Hospitals as medical physicist, Oncology Dept. as Medical physicist.
Diploma in medical radioisotope techniques (DMRIT) B.Sc. (Chemistry/Physics/ Life Sciences/ Biotech./ Biochemistry/ Microbiology /Biophysics), B.Sc. (Nuclear Medicine Technology) or B.Sc. (Medical Radiological Technology) Nuclear Medicine centers, Cancer hospitals and radiological centers as Medical Physicist
Diploma in Radiation Medicine (DRM) MBBS degree Nuclear Medicine Centres, Radio diagnostic centers and Radiotherapy centers.
Educational Opportunities: Earlier, only BARC was running a diploma course in order to cater the demand of trained personals needed for radiation safety and for calculation of doses for medical purpose. As the number of students trained from there were limited, other institutions and universities also took plunge to fill the gap of required trained personnel. Now we have around seven institution/universities which are offering the courses on radiation Physics or Medical physics. On one hand the radiations have found wide use in industries, medical diagnostics and on the other side its harmful effects has to be dealt carefully. There is an urgent need to address the issues related to safe and secure use of radiations. This could be done with the development of a man force for monitoring safe and sensible use of radiations. Besides this more researchers should be attracted to work in this area as it has promising applications for the future. Seeing the tremendous requirement of men power for the safety purpose and research in the field, scope of radiation physics as career is promising and is not explored much.
The pioneering work of human resource development in the field is done by the BARC, Mumbai. They started one year post M.Sc. Diploma in radiological Physics. After completing the Diploma first few rank-holders are likely to be absorbed in BARC/DAE as Scientific Officers in the grade of Scientific Officer (C) if found suitable by the Selection Committee and other candidates qualify for employment as medical Physicists or radiological safety officers in medical and industrial institutions, handling radioisotopes and ionizing radiations. One year Diploma in Medical Radioisotopes Technique (DMRIT) after B.Sc and a two year diploma in Radiation Medicine (DRM) after MBBS are also offered at BARC. These diplomas are now awarded by the Homi Bhabha National Institute, a Deemed University. During the training BARC is also providing stipend for the trainees. On the similar line to BARC, Osmania University in collaboration with MNJ Institute of Oncology & Regional Cancer Centre (MNJIO&RCC) and Indo-American Cancer Centre (IACC), both at Hyderabad, started Dip in Radiological Physics(Dip.R.P), this course is running at Department of Physics, Osmania University. Another Diploma in radiation medicine (D.R.M) course is offered by INMS, a DRDO Lab at Delhi and the degree is awarded by Delhi University. Besides these Diploma courses, Degree courses are also offered by several universities. Details of the Universities with courses offered, duration and minimum Qualifications are listed below:
University/Institution Degree/Diploma Duration Minimum Qualification
Department of Physics, Anna University, Chennai
M.Sc Medical Physics 2 Years B.Sc. (Physics and Maths) or B.Sc. (Applied Sciences)
BARC, Mumbai Dip.In Radiological Physics(Dip.R.P) 1 Year M.Sc. in Physics
Diploma in medical radioisotope techniques (DMRIT) 1 Year B.Sc(Chemistry, Physics/ Life Sciences/ Biotech./ Biochemistry/Microbiology/
Biophysics), B.Sc. (Nuclear Medicine Technology) or B.Sc. (Medical Radiological Technology)
Diploma in Radiation Medicine(D.R.M) 2 Years MBBS
University of Calicut MSc – Radiation Physics 2 Years B.Sc. (Physics, Chemistry and Maths)
Dept. Of Physics,
Panjab University M.Sc. in Medical Physics 2 Years B.Sc. (Physics as the core subject).
or B.Sc. (Radiotherapy, Biophysics, Radiodiagnosis and Medical Physics)
Karnataka M.Sc. (Radiation Physics) 2 years B.Sc. (Physics and Maths)
Dept. Of Physics,
Manipal Univ.,Karnataka M.Sc. (Medical Radiation Physics) 2 Years B.Sc. (Physics and Mathematics)
M.Sc. (Nuclear Medicine Technology) 2 Years BSc (Nuclear Medicine Technology) with DNMT or DMRIT (Diploma in Medical Radio Isotopes Technology)
or PG Diploma in Nuclear Medicine Technology or BSc (Medical Imaging Technology) or BSc ( Maths, Physics and Biology)
Osmania Univ., Hyderabad
http://www.osmania.ac.in/ Dip.In Radiological Physics(Dip.R.P) 1 Year M.Sc. in Physics / Medical Physics / Nuclear Physics or an equivalent course
Inst. Of Nuclear Medicine and Allied Sciences, affiliated to Delhi University
http://www.drdo.org/ Diploma in Radiation Medicine(D.R.M) 2 Years MBBS
AIIMS, New Delhi
http://www.aiims.edu/ M.Sc. (Nuclear Medicine Technology) 2 Years B.Sc.(Physics, Mathematics and Biology) or DMRIT (Diploma in Medical Radio Isotopes Technology) or PG Diploma in Nuclear Medicine Technology
M.Sc. (Medical Physics) 2 Years B.Sc.(Physics and Mathematics)
Besides the basic minimum requirement of Masters degree or diploma to work as radiation Physicist or Medical Physicist, Ph.D. in the field can also be perused. In addition to this the medical physicists are required to maintain their clinical experience along with continuing medical education in their field of practice. The field is a growing field with need of constant upgradation.
In this era of information Technology and the hype and fanfare of popular career options, many promising career options remain unexplored and unnoticed. One of them is career in radiation physics/medical Physicist. Trained personnel for radiation safety in the medical, industrial, research and agricultural institutions are needed and in future the demand will increase with more nuclear power plants in the anvil and nuclear medical diagnostics progressing leap and bound. But due to scarce availability of such courses the trained manpower in this field are difficult to find and the simple economics of demand and supply predicts good scope of getting employment in this area. Besides this availability of more people with proper training in the field will be a boon to radiological physics and for the safe use of radiations. It is rightly said “Professionals of radiological physics have the obligation of playing a role in saving lives and building the future. Some contribute by being a crucial part of the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board. So candidates who are intelligent and hardworking should come forward to shoulder the responsibility”.
(Rajendra Dobhal is Director, Uttarakhand State Council of Science & Technology, Dehradun, Uttarakhand, Sarita Khandka is Senior Scientific Officer, Uttarakhand State Council of Science & Technology, Dehradun and Manish Chandra is Senior Consultant (Radiation Oncologist), Jupiter Hospital, Thane, Mumbai.)