Theoretical positions, research contents and goals

Medical physics is an interdisciplinary research field aiming at development of novel applications of physical processes and techniques in various fields of medicine.One could argue that Leonardo da Vinci was among the first to apply physical principles in his quest to understand the function of various organs. However, it was the discovery of X-rays at the end of the 19th century that very quickly resulted in radiation-based medical diagnostic and treatment modalities (e.g., radiography and radiotherapy), which also marks the beginning of medical physics. Similarly, discovery of nuclear magnetic resonance lead to invention of magnetic resonance imaging. Invention of the laser in the 1960’s enabled further development of new imaging modalities with unprecedented spatial resolution and contrast (e.g., optical coherence tomography) as well as diagnostic (e.g., flow cytometry), and treatment modalities (e.g., eye surgery).Overall, medical physics has and continues to have a profound impact on the practice of medicine in terms of improved imaging and treatment technologies, and better understanding of the complexity of the disease.

Extremely dynamic progress in medicine and life sciences over the past decades has also fueled very rapid and propulsive research in medical physics. While medicine has not been able yet to prevent and cure many of the diseases, it has managed to cure most earlierlethal acute conditions, turning them into long-term chronic conditions. Given this dramatic shift from acute to chronic disease, the strategies for preventing and treating diseases are beginning to shift. This shift has resulted in (1) diagnostic procedures that are becoming more extensive, utilizing a variety of diagnostic tools, from molecular imaging procedures to various molecular biomarkers, like genetic and molecular profiling. Similarly, (2) therapies that are becoming more personalized, addressing specifics and heterogeneity of the disease in each patient. And finally, rapid progress in life sciences, particularly cell and molecular biology, has started to (3) uncover incredible complexity of the disease, which we just barely started to understand. Addressing these challenges is leading to the New Medicine (“The 4 P’s of Medicine”): medicine that is more Predictive, Personalized, Preemptive, and Participatory.

Medical Physics Research Program is structured around these key challenges, which also represent the three key programmatic pillars:

  1. Imaging
  2. Therapy
  3. Modeling