Pre-College Programs
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Physics in Health and Medicine

This course is expected to run but has not yet been scheduled.

Course Description

Ever wonder how our immune system is able to detect and track down harmful invaders? Or how an MRI machine can examine our body from the inside out? In reality, both our bodies and medical technologies heavily rely of the laws of physics to operate effectively.

In this course, we will examine how physical laws govern how our body works. For example, in the circulatory system, as heart muscles contract, increased fluid pressure forces blood through arteries and veins. We will experiment with how different variables including heart rate, blood pressure, artery diameter, and blood thickness affect circulation. These variables are in turn influenced by various health conditions and medications. Additionally, we will discuss the physical concepts utilized in a wide variety of medical technologies including electrocardiogram (measuring signals responsible for heart beat pattern), MRI imaging, and radiation therapy. Finally, the course will briefly introduce ongoing modern research concerning topics from physically manipulating strands of DNA to measuring the movement and behavior of cells in the immune system.

The course will involve a combination of instructor led lectures, student directed discussions, experiments, and independent reading of web and print based materials. Through the course, students will gain a deeper appreciation for how physics has a profound impact on the life sciences and the general importance of interdisciplinary studies. Both in the academic and industrial world, more and more projects rely on the cooperation and expertise of many people with backgrounds in different fields of physical science, life science, and engineering.

Some prior high school level physics and/or biology coursework will be useful background for students enrolling in this class. Algebra and geometry/trigonometry will be used regularly during lectures and discussions. This course should be of particular interest for both students interested in physical and life sciences and students considering a pre-med college track.