U.S. Particle Accelerator School

Medical Accelerators and Radiological Physics course

Sponsoring University:

Colorado State University


Medical Accelerators and Radiological Physics


Alex Brandl and Tom Johnson, Colorado State University

Purpose and Audience
This course bridges the gap between the principles of accelerator systems and the requirements of important medical applications. The course is useful for accelerator physicists and engineers interested in learning about medical applications or medical physicists interested in learning about aspects of accelerator design. Some familiarity with basic particle acceleration fundamentals is useful. Cross-fertilization can lead to new ideas or new careers.

Basic knowledge of charged particle accelerators and optics. USPAS "Accelerator Fundamentals" course or equivalent or permission by instructor.

It is the responsibility of the student to ensure that he or she meets the course prerequisites or has equivalent experience.


This course identifies the requirements of some important medical devices and treatments and analyzes these requirements in terms of the accelerator application. Find out how accelerators are used in the medical field, and conversely, find out what are the requirements and limitations of accelerator performance and how that affects the application. A flow down design approach is used. Basic principles (biology/physics/ accelerators) give rise to specific requirements and tolerances that define the physical realization of equipment to produce the desired goals.

Instructional Method
Class lectures are used to derive basic principles, elucidate medical requirements and review useful tools for calculation. Practical problems with real world subtleties are assigned to help connect the parts. (Computer labs may be added if time allows.)

Course Content

This course reviews some basic principles of particle acceleration and optics, sufficient to allow a determination of parameters and some tolerances. In addition, this course reviews the basic principles of medical physics as applied to radiation treatment and imaging. Specific topics include synchrotrons, cyclotrons, beam lines, multiple scattering, x-ray and particle diagnostics and hadron therapy. Comparisons of different methods of achieving the ‘same’ goals are created with student involvement.

Reading Requirements
An extensive bibliography will be provided with reprints of published papers and reports. Class lecture notes will be provided during the course. (To be provided by the USPAS) "Structural Shielding Design and Evaluation for Megavoltage X-and Gamma-ray Radiotherapy Facilities", NCRP Report No. 151, Natl. Council on Radiation, 2005.

Credit Requirements
Students will be evaluated based on performance: final report or final exam (25% of final grade), homework assignments (50% of final grade), and class participation (25% of final grade).

IU/USPAS course: Physics 671