Health Physics Academic Programs

Idaho State University

The 22nd annual John Horan Symposium was held at Idaho State University (ISU) this April in honor of the late John Horan. This annual meeting—held among the Health Physics Society (HPS) Eastern Idaho Chapter, Great Salt Lake Chapter, and ISU Student Branch—is meant to bring together both students and local professionals from many different fields. Horan was a world-renowned and highly respected health physicist who contributed invaluable time and experiences to both the ISU health physics and nuclear engineering programs. This year's symposium included presentations on innovative dispersion modelling and radiological detection systems developments, a look at the growing role of health physicists in emergency-response planning, and an overview of current research being conducted at ISU. The health physics program at ISU, directed by Dr. Richard Brey, was very excited to host the symposium. For the spring graduates, it was an excellent way to end their time here at ISU.

The students of the ISU Student Branch of the HPS with Dr. Richard Brey and HPS President-elect Dr. Nolan Hertel at the 2018 John Horan Symposium, left to right, Rijul Chauhan, Jose Hurtado, Mark Williams, Jessica Graeber, Brey, Amelia Miller, Hertel, Sarah Black, Madison Cooke, Aaron Otterstein, and Andrew Turner. Photo courtesy of Jessica Graeber

Bryce Rich (left) with Nolan Hertel at ISU. Submitted photo


University of Alabama at Birmingham

On 31 March 2018, Health Physics Society (HPS) President-elect Nolan Hertel, PhD, visited Huntsville, Alabama, to share his talk on exposure to the public from 131I patients released after therapy treatment and the state of health physics and the HPS. During his meeting with the Alabama Chapter, Dr. Hertel visited with the health physics faculty and students in attendance from the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), Master of Science in Health Physics (MSHP) program.

The UAB health physics program is one of the newest in the country and was born out of a desire to start a program that goes back over 20 years. The late Professor Emeritus Michael A. Thompson, who worked for decades in the UAB Nuclear Medicine Technology (NMT) program, dreamed of starting a health physics program at UAB. Several years ago, the dean of the UAB School of Health Professions decided to shift the offerings of programs primarily to the master's level. The current program director of the UAB NMT program, Norman E. Bolus, saw an opportunity to not only move the NMT to the master's level but also to have a joint program offering with a Master of Science in Health Physics as well. After getting all parties involved to support this endeavor and with support of the administration of UAB, the health physics program celebrated its first class offering in the fall of 2016. Tremendous help from Dr. Emily Caffrey, adjunct faculty for the UAB MSHP program, allowed this first class to begin. Since then UAB has hired its first full-time faculty member, Associate Professor Dr. Mohammad Maqbool, who has many years of experience teaching health physics to aid in helping the program continue to become established.

The program currently has three part-time students and two full-time students as enrollment continues to grow moving forward. The fall of 2018 class will include 5 to 8 new students. The unique curriculum has several joint MSHP and MSNMT classes offered for both sets of students. This enhances the quality of both programs by broadening the students' experience base. Professor Emeritus Thompson would be proud of the program that UAB is now establishing and grateful to all those who are supporting it to get it established.

Front row, left to right, Domenica Pringle (UAB MSHP program student), Liliana Navarrete (UAB MSNMT program assistant professor), Misty Liverett (UAB MSHP program student), and Manar Sakalla (UAB MSHP program student); back row, left to right, Jordan Pugh (UAB MSHP program student), Norman E. Bolus (UAB MSHP Program assistant professor and UAB MSNMT program interim program director and program director), Dr. Nolan Hertel (HPS president-elect), and Dr. Mohammad Maqbool (UAB MSHP program associate professor); not pictured, Dr. Emily Caffrey (UAB MSHP Program adjunct faculty and current president of the Alabama Chapter of the HPS). Photo courtesy of Jarvis Caffrey


Louisiana State University

Wayne Newhauser, PhD, Program Director

In February, Health Physics Society (HPS) President-elect Dr. Nolan Hertel, CHP, visited Louisiana to share his research on radiation protection as well as the state of health physics and the HPS. Prior to his meeting with the Deep South Chapter, Hertel chatted with some students and faculty of the Louisiana State University (LSU) medical and health physics program.

The health physics degree program developed from LSU's nuclear science program and was merged into an integrated medical and health physics program in the Department of Physics and Astronomy. LSU offers both undergraduate and graduate level courses in health physics. In 2011, the health physics portion of the program began a rejuvenation process funded in part by grants from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission and other sponsors. At present, there are six graduate students in health physics. LSU is a member of the Oak Ridge Associated Universities (ORAU) network and was recently designated a member of the Nuclear Energy University Program (NEUP) by the U.S. Department of Energy.

The program primarily includes three faculty members: Dr. Wayne Newhauser (program director), Dr. Wei-Hsung Wang, and Dr. Kenneth Matthews, with another faculty member (residing in the Department of Environmental Sciences) scheduled to arrive in September 2018. A second health physics faculty search began in March 2018. Several faculty members from other academic units also participate in radiation safety-related education and research. A program goal is to provide high-quality didactic education and practical training to prepare graduates for successful careers as professional health physicists.

Students of both health physics and medical physics programs as well as former health physics graduates in front of the Nuclear Science Building at LSU, left to right, front row, Nicholas Desselles (HP), Andrew Hastings (HP), Anthony Davila (HP), and Amin Hamideh (HP); middle row, Charles Wilson (HP), Payton Bruckmeier (MP), Bethany Broekhoven (HP), Andrew McGuffey (MP), and Jabari Robinson (HP); back row, Daniel DiMarco (HP), Audrey Copeland (MP), Garrett Otis (HP), and William Donahue (MP). Photo courtesy of Dr. Wei-Hsung Wang

Left to right, Jamie Dismukes (HP), Joseph LaHaye (PHYS), Kyle Huber (ME), Charles Wilson (HP), Dr. Nolan Hertel, Blaine Irle (PHYS), and Nicholas Desselles (HP). Photo courtesy of Dr. Wei-Hsung Wang


North Carolina State University

Robert Hayes, PhD, Associate Professor

The North Carolina Chapter of the Health Physics Society (HPS) met Friday, 2 March 2018, at North Carolina State University (NCSU). The meeting included a visit from HPS President-elect Nolan Hertel, who met with the local NCSU American Nuclear Society (ANS) student chapter on Thursday, 1 March. Hertel presented "Radiation Protection: What We Know, What We Don't Know, and What We Need to Know" to the NCSU nuclear engineering students, which was very apropos as the Nuclear Engineering Department at NCSU is in the process of considering a health physics minor for students in nuclear engineering. The minor would fit an aggressive four-year degree, a more moderate five-year option, or even an aggressive five-year accelerated bachelor's to master's degree option (with master's research allowing health physics topics).

The North Carolina Chapter spring meeting included a full single-day program of student research topics being presented from nuclear engineering graduate and undergraduate students. The program also included a presentation by Hertel titled "Neutron Spectroscopy With Moderated Detectors." Prior to ending the day with a short business meeting, attendees were able to tour the nearby retrospective dosimetry and nuclear assay labs of Associate Professor Robert Hayes of the NCSU Nuclear Engineering Department.


North Carolina Chapter members touring the RDNA labs at NCSU as part of the technical program at the spring meeting. Photo courtesy of Robert Hayes

HPS President-elect Nolan Hertel of Georgia Tech with nuclear engineering students of the ANS chapter at NCSU. Photo courtesy of Robert Hayes


Purdue University

Jason Harris, PhD, Program Director

Left to right: Kyle Smith, Nolan Hertel, Marcia Robinson, John Bullock, Michael Abel, Colby Neumann, Eric Foss, Shraddha Rane, and Mychaela Coyne. Photo courtesy of Jason Harris

In January 2018, Health Physics Society (HPS) President-elect Nolan Hertel, PhD, visited Indiana to share his talk on radiation protection research needs and the state of health physics and the HPS. Prior to his meeting with the Hoosier Chapter, Dr. Hertel visited the health physics faculty and students at Purdue University.

The Purdue health physics program is one of the oldest in the country and was born out of the work conducted by Dr. John Christian. Professor Christian developed a method of testing enteric tablet coatings using 24Na as a radioactive label in 1942. This pioneering research made use of short-lived radioisotopes produced in Purdue's cyclotron (one of the first in the United States, dating back to 1936). Subsequently, in 1947, Christian received one of the first shipments of a radioisotope produced in a nuclear reactor when reactor byproduct materials were released after the Second World War from the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. In the 1950s, a university radiation safety program was created, and by the 1960s, undergraduate- and graduate-level programs in environmental health and health physics (first termed bionucleonics) were established. Since that time, Purdue has continued to offer BS, MS, and PhD degrees in health physics. Faculty members at Purdue have included two past HPS presidents, Drs. Paul Ziemer and Richard Vetter.

After growth of the program in the 1980s and 1990s, followed by decline in the 2000s, the program has rebounded significantly. Currently the program has about 20 students, equally divided between undergraduate and graduate students. The last two years have seen increases in enrollment, and prospects look good again for next year. Program strengths include medical health physics, imaging, and nuclear security. The program is served by three faculty members: Dr. Jason Harris (program director), Dr. Linda Nie, and Dr. James Schweitzer, with the intent to hire another faculty member next year. Several other faculty in medical physics and imaging also complement the program. As part of Purdue's commitment to distance education, the program is planning to offer online courses and degrees. The goal is to reestablish Purdue as the leader in health physics education in the United States.