Health Physics (Radiation Protection) Graduate Program

Health physics, also referred to as the science of radiation protection, is the profession devoted to protecting people and their environment from potential radiation hazards, while making it possible to enjoy the beneficial uses of radiation.

The use of radiation in medicine, industry, and research benefits all of us. To assure that radiation and radioactive materials are used safely, nuclear facilities and research laboratories demand personnel who understand the many types of radiation hazards and who know how to prevent and control them. Specialized education and training is a prerequisite for becoming a professional health physicist. In order to pursue a career in health physics, you must have a basic education in physical science plus training in specific areas. To qualify for professional status, a health physicist needs at least a BS degree in science, engineering, or health science with specialized courses in physics, mathematics, chemistry, nuclear engineering, radiation biology, radiological health, and occupational health. A graduate degree in health physics is required for many professional level positions, particularly for those involving health physics research or teaching.

What do Health Physicists Do?

  • Health Physics Researchers
  • Environmental Health Physicists
  • Health Physics Educators
  • Medical Health Physicists
  • Industrial and Applied Health Physicists
  • Radiation Safety Officers
  • Health Physics Regulators
  • More information about Health Physics can be found at the Health Physics Society

Research Opportunities or Research Focus

  • Radiation Shielding and Dosimetry
  • Radiation Waste Treatment and Management
  • Radiation Biology
  • Environmental Radiation and Biological Effect of Low-Dose Radiation Exposure

Also refer to descriptions of each faculty’s research interests for specific research topics.

Degree Paths

  • M.S. Nonthesis
  • M.S. Thesis
  • Ph.D.

Sample Plan of Study

History of program in HSCI

The first applications of radioactive isotopes in the pharmaceutical sciences had their beginning in the laboratories of Purdue University, where a method of testing enteric tablet coatings using sodium-24 as a radioactive label was reported in 1942. This pioneering research by Professor John Christian made use of short-lived radioisotopes produced in Purdue’s cyclotron (circa 1936) as well as radioisotopes shipped from cyclotron and nuclear reactor-based facilities throughout the United States (University of California and Oak Ridge National Laboratory, 1947). The first formal lecture and laboratory courses in the United States for teaching basic principles of radioactive isotope applications, including the use of tracer methodology in research, were developed and taught by Professor Christian in the School of Pharmacy starting in 1947. By 1948, Professor Christian was designated as “Coordinator of Bionucleonics Research” by the President of the University. From 1948 through the 1970’s, Professor Christian established the Radiological and Environmental Management (REM; 1955) and the Bionucleonics Department (1959), which led to the inception of the Health Physics program.

Purdue University, School of Health Sciences, 550 Stadium Mall Drive, West Lafayette, IN 47907, (765) 494-1419, Fax: (765) 496-1377

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