Imaging & Medical Physics

Imaging science has always been driven by fundamental physics-going back at least to the very first Physics Nobel Prize, to Roentgen for X-ray applications. Today, radiowaves and X-rays produce stunning high resolution images deep in tissue; antimatter (in the form of positron emission tomography or PET) is used daily at Duke Hospital to diagnose cancer; and X-ray, γ ray and charged particle beams are used to kill diseased cells.

Work at Duke falls into two broad categories. At one extreme, we develop next-generation techniques (such as hyperpolarized magnetic resonance imaging and nonlinear microscopy), applying quantum mechanics to extract molecular information is not commonly present in existing modalities. Some of this work focuses on materials science (including three-dimensional analysis of Renaissance paintings) but most is biological, with applications from excised tissue (to improve pathology) to preclinical and clinical imaging.

At the other extreme, Duke Physics works closely with the Medical Physics program (centered in School of Medicine), where a major thrust is validation, refinement, and coregisteration of existing imaging and treatment modalities to make them clinically useful. Thus medical physics provides the technical foundations of radiology, radiation oncology, and nuclear medicine; it is built on a foundation of physics, but with distinct body of knowledge and scholarship.

Associated Centers and Laboratories

The Center for in vivo Microscopy, an NIH-supported Regional Resource, has strong efforts in hyperpolarized MR (lung imaging with hyperpolarized noble gases, parahydrogen based technologies for carbon and nitrogen molecular polarization) and many other imaging technologies, largely at the preclinical (animal) level.

The Medical Physics program currently has over 50 faculty members drawn from five departments: Radiology, Radiation Oncology, Radiation Safety, Physics, and Biomedical Engineering. Thanks to the diversity of our faculty, Duke Medical Physics is one of few programs that offers balanced training in four tracks covering every major area of medical physics: diagnostic imaging, medical health physics, nuclear medicine, and radiation therapy. Many faculty are internationally-respected experts in their fields of study. With support from various governmental and non-governmental grants and contracts, our faculty have established well-recognized laboratories that are distributed over 25,000 square feet of dedicated space.