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MPhys Physics with Astrophysics / Course details

Year of entry: 2021

Course unit details:
Physics of Medical Imaging

Unit code PHYS30632
Credit rating 10
Unit level Level 3
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Offered by Department of Physics & Astronomy
Available as a free choice unit? No


Physics of Medical Imaging


Unit title Unit code Requirement type Description
Mathematics 1 PHYS10071 Pre-Requisite Compulsory
Quantum Physics and Relativity PHYS10121 Pre-Requisite Compulsory
Vibrations & Waves PHYS10302 Pre-Requisite Compulsory
Electricity & Magnetism PHYS10342 Pre-Requisite Compulsory
Electromagnetism PHYS20141 Pre-Requisite Compulsory
Mathematics of Waves and Fields PHYS20171 Pre-Requisite Compulsory
Wave Optics PHYS20312 Pre-Requisite Compulsory


To illustrate, using medical imaging, how physics is applied to the problems of clinical measurement, diagnosis, patient management and biomedical research.
To provide an understanding of the phenomena and processes of medical imaging.

Learning outcomes

This course unit detail provides the framework for delivery in 20/21 and may be subject to change due to any additional Covid-19 impact.  Please see Blackboard / course unit related emails for any further updates
On completion of the course, students will be able to:
1. Describe the process of image acquisition and reconstruction for a range of medical imaging
2. Relate the properties of medical images to the underlying physical processes
3. Predict the effect of a change in acquisition parameters and conditions on the appearance of
the reconstructed image
4. Design image acquisition strategies and calculate relevant parameters to achieve a specified
5. Compare the advantages and disadvantages of different medical imaging modalities and
their configuration for a particular clinical application


1. Introduction to medical imaging      (1 lecture)
The role of physics in medical imaging and the range of imaging methods.

2. Ultrasound imaging    (2 lectures)
Transducers, properties of the ultrasound beam, interaction of the beam with the patient, acoustic impedance, scanning modes, Doppler ultrasound and flow imaging.

3. X-ray imaging and X-ray CT   (4 lectures)
X-ray tubes and the generation of X-rays, X-ray spectrum, interaction of X-rays with the patient, attenuation, image receptors, X-ray image properties, measurement noise, contrast, resolution, X-ray computed tomography (CT), 2-D and 3-D imaging, filtered back projection, Hounsfield Units.

4. Image mathematics and introductory image processing    (2 lectures)
Digital image representation, Fourier reconstruction methods, iterative reconstruction, modulation transfer functions, 2D convolution, image filtering and noise reduction, image segmentation, image registration.

5. Positron emission tomography (PET) and single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT)    (4 lectures)
Radioisotopes, radiotracers and molecular imaging, scintillators, gamma cameras, resolution, sensitivity, collimators, coincidence, PET-CT and SPECT-CT, tracer kinetic modeling.

6. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)    (7 lectures)
Basic concepts of MR physics, spin polarization, resonance, relaxation, spin echoes, gradient echoes, spatial encoding using magnetic field gradients, k-space and image reconstruction, relaxation enhancement, MRI scanner hardware, functional MRI, MR spectroscopy.

7. Other imaging modalities in medical research    (3 lectures)
Electric and magnetic fields in the brain, magnetoencephalography, electrical impedance tomography, electroencephalography,

23 lectures in total including revision and worked examples

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Other 33%
Written exam 67%

Feedback methods

Example exam questions on the lecture content will be provided and model answers will be issued.

Recommended reading

Because of the breadth of the material, students will be provided with a reading list and/or detailed notes as appropriate.

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Assessment written exam 1.5
Lectures 23
Independent study hours
Independent study 75.5

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Julian Matthews Unit coordinator
Laura Parkes Unit coordinator

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