Medical Physics - LEB


Biomedical Engineering

Curricular Unit (UC)

Medical Physics

Mandatory  x
Scientific Area EB Category  

Course category: B - Basic; C - Core Engineering; E - Specialization; P - Complementary.

Year:3rd Semester: 1st ECTS:5.5 Total Hours: 150
Contact Hours T: 45 TP: 22 PL: S: OT:3
Professor in charge

 Pedro Miguel Martins Ferreira

T - Lectures; TP - Theory and practice; PL - Lab Work; S - Seminar; OT - Tutorial Guidance.

  • Learning outcomes of the curricular unit:

    Introduction to nuclear and radiation physics and their applications in diagnosis and therapy techniques. Apply concepts acquired in previous physics course in medical contexts. Comprehension of fundamental working principles of medical techniques such as: X-rays; radiotherapy; positron emission tomography; radiodiagnosis using contrast techniques; proton, alpha and gamma beam therapies; nuclear magnetic resonance; echographies; laser applications in medicine.

  • Syllabus:

    Constitution of matter: isotopes. Nuclear mass and bonding energy. 

    Radioactivity: radioactive decay law. Alpha, beta and gamma emissions. Spectra and energetic balance. Natural radioactivity.

    Interaction between matter and radiation: radiation effects in matter. Radiation detection. Dosimetry. Nuclear reactions and energetic budget. Radioisotope production in reactors. 

    Radiations: X-rays in medicine. Radiotherapy. Clinical exams with radiation. Positron emission tomography. 

    Echographies: ultrassound propagation in matter. Reflexion, dampening and Doppler shifts on the human body. Echographies and echocardiograms. 

    Nuclear magnetic resonance: nuclear magnetism. Interaction of nuclei with intense magnetic fields. Analysis of NMR scans via Fourier decomposition. 

    Lasers. Basic principles of laser operation. Types of laser used in medicine. Lasers in ophthalmology, dermathology, odonthology and oncology.

  • Demonstration of the syllabus coherence with the curricular unit's objectives.

    The syllabus follows the criteria used internationally in similar courses in engineering degrees. Lectures always include several practical examples which promote classroom discussion and easier assimilation of the theory as well as its connection to other courses. The exercises proposed in the problem sets allow students, individually or in group, to apply the theoretical concepts to a wide variety of practical situations and thus gain the necessary confidence and skills to use them correctly in many different contexts. This is to impart to students that calculation is an essential ingredient of physics and the ability to obtain numerical results that can be checked by experimental observation underpins the huge success of modern sciences and technologies.

  • Teaching methodologies

    The lectures follow the expository method, always accompanied by practical examples and with extensive use of the white board. Problems classes are designed to clarify difficulties encountered when solving the problem sets that are expected to have been previously worked out by the students. The course Moodle pages will contain extensive study material, past exams and external links to complementary study material. There will also be visits to Nuclear Physics laboratories to apply experimentally the concepts learned. 


    To be approved in this discipline, the student must have a grade larger or equal to 10, which may be obtained in one of the following manners:

    a) By attending two evaluation tests during the school term. The grade in each test ought to be larger or equal to 8. The final classification will be the average of the grades in both tests. The student will be able to repeat one of the tests on the date of the first exam.

    b) By a final examination, in its first or second dates.

  • Demonstration of the coherence between the teaching methodologies and the learning outcomes

    Solving a large number of exercises allows students to strengthen their theoretical knowledge through hands-on practice. Real life examples are used to make a connection with the real world and with other courses The aim is also to enhance student participation and motivation

  • Main Bibliography:
    1. E.B. Podgoršak, “Radiation Physics for Medical Physicists”, Springer Verlag, 2006.
    2. K.S. Krane, Introductory Nuclear Physics, John Wiley & Sons, 1988.
    3. B.H. Brown, R.H. Smallwood, D.C. Barber, P.V. Lawford and D.R. Hose, “Medical Physics and Biomedical Engineering”, Institute of Physics Publishing, Bristol and Philadelphia, 1999.
    4. P. Davidovits, “Physics in Biology and Medicine”, Elsevier, 4ª Ed. 2013.