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NSF Grant Strengthens Physics of Medicine ProgramJune 15, 2012
On May 15, the National Science Foundation awarded Rockhurst University and Loyola University Maryland with a $199, 979 collaborative grant to develop three upper-division physics modules in fiber optics and light delivery in medicine, nuclear physics and nuclear medicine, and pressure in the human body. Rockhurst’s portion of the grant award is $111,132.
“NSF grants are incredibly competitive and very difficult to obtain,” Timothy McDonald, Ph.D., dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, said. “Nancy Donaldson’s success in obtaining the grant is a tribute to her visionary approach and disciplinary leadership in the physics of medicine program.”
Nancy Donaldson, Ph.D., department chair of mathematics and physics and the person responsible for securing the grant, said when she first began teaching physics at Rockhurst, she noticed many of her students were taking physics only as prerequisites for a graduate program in medicine or health care.
“Physics relate to anything you are studying, whether it is music, engineering, or architecture,” she said. “You can teach physics as being functionally relevant to any field, so I began helping my students see the relevance of physics to medicine and health care.”
The study of physics grew in popularity, and in 2009 Rockhurst University began offering a physics of medicine minor. Upper-division courses include physics of the body, physics of medical imaging, and optics with a focus in medicine. The physics of medicine minor grew quickly in popularity and soon the program expanded to include a major track.
The collaboration with Loyola University Maryland began after a national physics conference presentation Donaldson conducted on Rockhurst’s physics of medicine program. Loyola now offers a similar program.
Donaldson said the new grant-funded physics modules were chosen because of their significance in the medical communities. Lasers and fiber optics in surgery have become very important as well as the importance of knowing about the uses of radioactive elements for treatment. And finally, no medical knowledge would be complete without an understanding of fluid dynamics as it applies to the human cardiovascular and respiratory systems.