PHYS 3330 Fall 2022 Syllabus

Medical Physics — PHYS 3330

Course Syllabus for Fall 2022

University of North Georgia’s College of Science & Mathematics

Department of Physics & Astronomy

Course Instructor

Dr. Sarah Formica

Office: Rogers Hall 116A

Virtual office: Zoom link


Hours: Mon. 2:00-4:00, Thurs. 1:00-3:00

Hours: by appointment, book your appointment here.

Course Catalog Description

This course examines the principles of physics that are applied to medical problems. The main emphasis of the course will be on radiology and radiation therapy. lt will include the physical and biological properties of radiation, the production and detection of radiation and the principles and techniques of medical imaging and radiation therapy. (3 credit hours)

Learning Goals

The aim of this course is to provide an overview of various modalities in radiation oncology in addition to providing an introduction to basic concepts of radiation dosimetry and medical physics.

Respect for Diversity

I recognize that there is a vast untapped intellectual resource in all groups underrepresented in physics. For this reason, I am committed to making physics more accessible to everyone. It is my intent that students from all diverse backgrounds and perspectives be well served by this course, that students’ learning needs be addressed both in and out of class, and that the diversity that students bring to this class be viewed as a resource, strength and benefit. It is my intent to present materials and activities that are respectful of diversity: gender, sexuality, ability, age, socioeconomic status, ethnicity, race, and culture. Your suggestions are encouraged and appreciated. Please let me know ways to improve the effectiveness of the course for you personally or for other students or student groups.

Required Texts and Materials

All course materials will be provided and accessed through UNG’s eLearning system, also known as D2L (Desire 2 Learn).

This course is taught primarily online using D2L. If you have any technical difficulties or maybe want to take a tutorial on using some of the technology, please go to, which is UNG’s source of remote learning resources.

Instructional Modality

Hybrid: Technology will be used to deliver 50% of class sessions

Course Schedule

Learning ModeMondayTuesdayWednesdayThursdayFriday
OnlineResearch and Guest Speakers
ClassroomClassroom Discussion
Office hoursRogers 116A 2:00-4:00 PMVirtual Office Hours, by appointmentRogers 116A 1:00-3:00 PMVirtual Office Hours, by appointment

Content Learning Outcomes

Upon completion of this course students will

  1. Have an understanding of the basic physical principles of x-ray production, radioactivity and radionuclide production, and the interaction of radiation with matter.
  2. Demonstrate basic understanding of different types of emitted energies and interactions with matter: X-ray, Gamma radiation, Ultrasound and Magnetic resonance Induction.
  3. Describe the basics of radiation measurement, the equipment used, and common protocols.
  4. Develop an understanding of basic instrumentation for Radiographic, Fluoroscopic, Nuclear Medicine, Computed Tomography, Ultrasound and MR imaging systems and factors that affect imaging performance.
  5. Describe radiation safety and quality control practices for radiographic, fluoroscopic, nuclear medicine and computed tomography imaging.
  6. Describe the physical and biological basis of radiation oncology
  7. Demonstrate understanding of the treatment of cancer patients through external beam radiotherapy and the extensive related physical concepts in calculation of radiation dose to targeted volumes, as well as techniques to spare the healthy normal tissue through intensity modulated radiotherapy


The grading system used in this course is probably vastly different from that of any other course you have taken. The grading system is actually not grading at all; it is even called ungrading or going gradeless by educators who implement it.

Research has informed us that descriptive feedback, rather than letter grades or scores, leads to higher learning gains and that using grades in an attempt to improve performance is not effective. There is evidence that grades encourage competition over cooperation, suppress creativity, foster a fear of failure, and reduce interest in learning. If you are curious, this review article discusses research related to grades: Teaching More by Grading Less (or Differently).

Much of this is confirmed by other researchers like Carol Dweck, whose book Mindset introduced the world to the concept of growth mindset, and Daniel Pink, whose book Drive argued that extrinsic rewards and punishments actually stifle creativity, higher-order thinking, and intrinsic motivation.

It is my hope to engender the dispositions of growth mindset and intrinsic motivation in my students,

so I want to eliminate any practices that work against students developing them.

In this class, after you turn in work for an assignment, you will receive written and/or verbal feedback about what you did well and what you can do to improve. You will also reflect on your work and your learning goals each week. Throughout the semester, you will have opportunities to assess your own work, to make improvements in response to feedback, and to elicit and receive new feedback — all of which has been shown to aid students in becoming more engaged and effective learners.

Individual Conferences

I understand that you will not automatically know how to evaluate yourself and your work, so I will help you learn methods of self-evaluation along the way. I hope to help you learn to move from talking about your performance (i.e. what an A looks like) to talking about your learning: what did you figure out? What obstacles did you overcome? What remains challenging that you want to keep working on? What can you now do that you couldn’t do before?

These questions are only some of what you can ask yourself when reflecting on and evaluating your learning. I hope that by the end of the course, you will have your own language for describing and judging your own learning. This makes self-evaluation much more effective and even enjoyable, as you learn to articulate your thoughts about your own learning.

We will meet at least once every month in individual conferences on Zoom to discuss your progress and learning. You are welcome to meet with me more often than once per month. You will be given the opportunity to sign up for an individual conference with me whenever you want to meet with me.

You will be required to meet with me at least once per month.

During these conferences, you will decide what we discuss. Sometimes, these conversations might be general and broad — like how you are doing overall in the course. Other times, we might talk about very specific aspects of what you are learning. There will be times when you will want to demonstrate your competency in an area. To do this, you can explain to me how you solved a problem from the self-assessment practice problems in the module. You can also demonstrate your learning by describing what you learned when you engaged in the class activities and discussions.

1st Conference Deadline2nd Conference Deadline3rd Conference Deadline4th Conference Deadline
September 16, 2022October 7, 2022October 28, 2022November 18, 2022

Evidence Portfolio

To help you keep track of your progress and learning in this course, you will use an evidence portfolio. In the evidence portfolio folder on D2L, you will provide evidence of your learning. You can discuss what you did and how it connects to your learning goals. If you demonstrate competency to me during class or conference, you will record it in the portfolio entry.

At the end of the course, you will have an organized body of work that you will use to determine your final grade for the course.

Final Course Grade

Your final grade in this course will be determined based on the skills you learn, the learning goals you achieve, and the competencies that you demonstrate. Throughout the course, you will develop a body of work that will help you to self-assess your learning and make an honest appraisal of your effort and progress in the course.

You will be afforded the agency to evaluate and examine your own learning and suggest your grade in the course.

At the end of the course, in place of a final exam, you will make a presentation to me where you will suggest your final grade, providing evidence from your body of work throughout the course for why you believe your suggested grade is fair. You have the choice of how to prepare and present this final grade presentation.

Final Presentation Options

(Choose one)

We can meet via Zoom for a final exit interview during which you will present an organized presentation with evidence to support your proposed final grade. I will provide feedback on your assessment and discuss your grade suggestion with you. Together, we will work toward an agreed upon grade, though I reserve the right to veto a suggested grade. This presentation must be no longer than 20 minutes.

You can prepare and record a 20-minute video presentation with evidence to support your proposed final grade and submit this video presentation to D2L. I reserve the right to veto a suggested grade.

You can propose your final grade in a paper that provides evidence from your body of work throughout the semester for why you believe your suggested grade is fair. This paper has a page limit of 3 pages, single spaced, 12 point font, 1 inch margins. This paper will be submitted to D2L. I reserve the right to veto a suggested grade.


This (un)grading system provides you some freedom to learn at your own pace. However, we are required to complete this course in 15 weeks. To help you stay on track and keep up with the material, I have set up some requirements:

Meet with me on Zoom in an individual conference at least once per month.

Show up on time to any individual conference you have scheduled.

Have evidence in your evidence portfolio for at least 75% of the material covered at the time of your quarterly conference.

If, at any time you do not meet these requirements, this will be recorded as counter-evidence. At the end of the semester, if you have counter-evidence remaining on your record, you will not be able to propose a final grade of A.

Counter-evidence will be erased from your record if you meet the requirements in a later individual conference.

Thinking and Communicating Like a Scientist

If you are taking this course, you are likely a STEM major or you have a considerable interest in science. As a scientist, be it a medical doctor, engineer, or researcher, you will have an obligation to do science ethically, follow the scientific method, and communicate effectively to science and non-science audiences alike. In this course, we will focus on learning to think and communicate like a scientist.

You have used the scientific method in your lab courses and your research, but you can also use a similar scientific thinking model in your STEM courses as well. Take a look at Figure 1, from in which he illustrates a way to think scientifically.

Figure 1, from

In this course, and hopefully in your other courses, too, you will approach problems and activities with a scientific thinking model like this. You will: 1.) Make observations, 2.) Form a hypothesis, 3.) Test that hypothesis, and 4.) Evaluate and analyze the results. To help you learn to think like a scientist, you will use a problem-solving method called the I.S.E.E. method.

The I.S.E.E. Method

Often students believe the important thing when solving a problem is to get the right answer, no matter how you get there. While this can be useful for some students in the short term, it only encourages sloppy thinking, and can sometimes lead to the issue that you get to the right endpoint without really understanding how you got there, or what the implications of getting there are.

A well-written physics solution is akin to a well-written short essay in a humanities class. It has an introduction, a body, and a conclusion. Following the I.S.E.E. method will help hone your “thinking-like-a-scientist” skills and will better prepare you for dealing with an unfamiliar problem in, say, an exam situation. Furthermore, your solutions will form a useful archive for you to return to when reviewing — you will be much better able to decipher what you were thinking when you wrote it. (You’ll also remember better what you did the first time.)

The I.S.E.E. method consists of four parts: Identify, Set Up, Execute, and Explain/Evaluate.

The I.S.E.E. method must be used for all problem solutions, quizzes, and exams. Figure 2 shows the weighting of each part of an I.S.E.E. method solution. Notice how the correct answer is only worth 1/10 of the total score. Every part of the I.S.E.E. solution is important, necessary, and critical for communicating scientifically.

Figure 2: Weighting of the I.S.E.E. method. This problem-solving method must be used for all quiz and exam solutions.


What information is given and what will you need to find?

  • Explicitly state what the problem is asking including clarifying the problem statement.
  • Identify the target variables of the problem — that is, the quantities whose values you’re trying to find.
  • Identify the known quantities, as stated or implied in the problem.
  • Identify applicable concepts/laws and assumptions/simplification. Think what physics concepts/laws are involved and what assumptions you can make about the physical situation in order to apply those concepts/laws.

Set Up

Represent the problem physically and mathematically

  • Represent physically. Translate the text of the problem into an appropriate type of physical representation (This may be a picture, a free-body diagram, an energy bar chart, a ray diagram …).
  • Represent the concepts/laws mathematically. Use the physical representation to construct a mathematical representation. You should have a symbolical mathematical statement that clearly shows what concept/law you are starting with to solve the problem. For example, a 1-d kinematics equation could start with xf = x0 + v0t + 1/2at2.
  • As best you can, estimate what your results will be and predict what the physical behavior of a system will be.


Work through the mathematics

  • Use the mathematical relationships you identified earlier to clearly solve for the unknown quantity (quantities). Make sure you include enough steps that someone can follow your work and that you use consistent units.
  • Keep symbols in your solution as long as possible and only put numbers in at the final step. Make sure you include appropriate units in your final answer.


Was your answer as expected, does it make physical sense?

  • Is the final value you found reasonable? Are the units appropriate? Compare your answer with your estimate(s), and reconsider things if there’s a discrepancy.
  • If your answer includes an algebraic expression, assure yourself that it correctly represents what would happen if the variables in it had very large or very small values. Does the result make sense in limiting cases?
  • Does the result make physical sense? Include a written explanation for why your result makes sense and what it tells you about what happens in the physical situation.

UNG’s Supplemental Syllabus