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Bio and Medical Physics

Our researchers investigate biological systems from the scale of a single molecule to that of tissues and organisms. Thereby we gain information about e.g. molecular structure and the function of growth control regulated by mechanical forces and radiotherapy of cancers. Technically, the methods used and developed range from electron holography to magnetic resonance imaging and microscopy in turbid media.

Coordinator: Prof. J. Unkelbach

This master’s program offers an advanced education in astrophysics and cosmology. After introductory lectures, practice sessions and labs, students begin with their master’s thesis that should take 9 months.
The following research groups offer master theses:
Experiment: Groups Aegerter, Kozerke, Schneider, Schuler and Unkelbach

Guide to Physics Studies (PDF, 504 KB)

Compulsory modules

Bio/Med compulsory
ZoomPHY587 was called WBAT1377 until Feb 2023

Research Seminar

Students are required to regularly attend a research seminar in bio- or medical physics during two semesters. (e.g. at the department for radio-oncology at the University Hospital, at the Paul-Scherrer Institute or at the Institute for Biomedical Engineering(seminars)).

Compulsory Elective Modules

The modules, worth 10 CP, are chosen from the list below depending on whether the focus is on biological or medical physics.

bio/med core elective



Elective Modules

The remaining credit points missing from the total of 90 must be earned through elective modules. Whether a module will be awarded credit is determined individually in consultation with the supervisor of the Master’s thesis. For instance, we recommend: PHY475/476 Computational problems in medical physics and radiation oncology, PHY461 Experimental Methods and Instruments, STA404 Clinical Biostatistics, ESC411 Computational Science I, ESC403 Introduction to Data Science, PHY352 Continuum mechanics, BIO330 Modelling in Biology, BIO253 Experimental Techniques in Physical Biology, PHY431 Biology for Physicists
 Compulsory courses of other master concentrations in physics may also be chosen. If you have any questions, please discuss the program with the coordinator of the master's program (Christof Aegerter) or the coordinator of the physics concentration Bio- and Medical Physics.

Continuing from a BSc 120 major in Physics

Compulsory modules: Nuclear and Particle Physics I (PHY211)
it is advised to attend these modules already during the BSc studies

In addition to these requirements, all students must discuss the courses they intend to complete with their master thesis advisor, who may set additional requirements.


Course contents in the compulsory modules

227-0385-10L Biomedical Imaging (offered by the Institute of Biomedical Engineering)

  • Physical and Technical Fundamentals of Medical Imaging
  • image reconstruction
  • X-ray imaging and computer tomography (CT)
  • Single Photon Emission Tomography (SPECT)
  • Positron Emission Tomography (PET)
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MR)
  • Ultrasound

PHY471 Physics and Mathematics of Radiotherapy planning

  • Interaction of photons and protons in tissue
  • Dose distributions of photons and protons
  • dose calculation algorithms
  • Pencil beam Algorithm for photons and protons
  • Convolution-Superposition algorithm for photons
  • Intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT)
  • IMRT Planning as a mathematical optimization problem
  • Fluence map optimization
  • Direct Aperture Optimization

PHY475/476 Computational problems in medical physics and radiation oncology

  • Monte Carlo simulation
  • Monte Carlo dose calculation for proton therapy
  • Fractionation decisions in radiation therapy
  • Adaptive fractionation on a MR-Linac
  • Markov decision processes and dynamic programming algorithms
  • Models for tumor control and probabilities of side effects
  • Likelihood function and model parameter estimation
  • Definition of target volume 
  • Mathematical models of tumor spreading
  • Bayesian networks

PHY361 Physics against cancer

  • The physics of imaging and treating cancer
  • Radiation Physics
  • Imaging for radiotherapy
  • Imaging with protons and ions
  • Radiotherapy with photons, electrons, protons and heavy ions
  • Basics of radiobiology and bio-physical modeling for radiotherapy
  • Organ motion management
  • Special radiotherapy techniques

PHY401 Condensed Matter

  • Phenomenology of
  • energy bands and fermi areas
  • optical properties
  • supra-conduction
  • di-electrics and ferro-electrics
  • magnetic properties
  • surface effects
  • electron optics and applications of focussed electron radiation
  • production of structures at the micro- and nanometer scale
  • lithographic structuring methods
  • mesoscopic physics

STA404 Clinical biostatistics

  • Confidence intervals for proportions,
  • Analysis of diagnostic studies,
  • Analysis of agreement,
  • Randomized controlled trials,
  • Hypothesis tests and sample size calculation,
  • Randomization and blinding,
  • Analysis of continuous and binary outcomes,
  • Multiplicity,
  • Subgroup analysis,
  • Protocol deviations,
  • Some special designs (crossover, equivalence, and clusters),
  • Analysis of prognostic studies,
  • Development and assessment of clinical prediction models.

ESC411 Computational Science I

  • Ordinary differential equations
  • Partial differential equations
  • Monte-Carlo
  • Inverse problems
  • Signal-processing
  • Optimization
  • Visualization
  • Combinatorial problems

ESC 403 Introduction to Data Science

  • What is Data Science?
  • Data science work flow
  • Statistical Learning
  • Time Series analysis
  • Bayesian Methods
  • Neural Networks and Deep Learning
  • Distributed and Accelerated Computing

BIO330 Modelling in Biology

  • Deterministic Reaction-Diffusion models
  • Stochastic Reaction-Diffusion models
  • Finite-element modeling
  • Cell-based tissue models
  • Image analysis

Study guide

The Guide to Physics Studies (PDF, 504 KB) provides comprehensive information about the Bachelor's and Master's programs.