Biomedical Physics - an Emerging Interdisciplinary Field
Why Apply Here?
Writing Your Personal Statement
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
The PhD Degree in Biomedical Physics
The Biomedical Physics Program (BMP) is joint effort under the Stanford School of Medicine Departments of Radiology and Radiation Oncology and offers instruction and research opportunities leading to a PhD degree in Biomedical Physics. The goal is to train students in research focused on technology translatable to clinical medicine, including radiation therapy, image-guided therapy, diagnostic, interventional, and molecular imaging, and other forms of disease detection and characterization with molecular diagnostics. These students will be prepared for a variety of career paths, including faculty positions at academic institutions, clinical physics roles in radiology and radiation oncology departments, industry, and roles at government and other private sector organizations focusing on medical- and bio-technology. Given the evolution of modern medicine towards technologically sophisticated treatments and diagnostics, particularly in the areas of imaging, molecular biomarkers, and radiation therapy, there is a need for well-trained leaders with this educational background and the skills to conduct meaningful and significant research in this field. Stanford University has a rich tradition of innovation and education within these disciplines, with advances ranging from the development and application of the medical linear accelerator towards radiation treatment of cancer to the engineering of non-invasive magnetic resonance imaging having been pioneered here. Accordingly, Stanford is home to a breadth of faculty with outstanding achievements. Located in the heart of Silicon Valley, the close proximity and frequent interactions among the Stanford Schools of Medicine, Engineering, and Humanities and Sciences provide an ideal environment to offer students outstanding training in both the clinical and scientific aspects of this discipline.
The program can provide flexibility and can complement other opportunities in applied medical research at Stanford. Special arrangements may be made for those with unusual needs or those simultaneously enrolled in other degree programs within the University. Similarly, students with prior relevant training may have the curriculum adjusted to eliminate requirements met as part of prior training.
As Biomedical Physics is a highly multidisciplinary area of study, we are seeking students from a variety of scientific backgrounds. Undergraduates with strong quantitative skills majoring in physics, engineering, or the biological sciences are encouraged to apply. No GRE exams are required for admissions.
The doctoral program is a full-time, residential, research-oriented program, with student typically starting in the fall quarter and spending an average of about 5-6 years at Stanford.
Candidates are encouraged to explore the various research interests of the biomedical physics core and affiliated faculty, with lab rotations during the first year expose students to different laboratories. Prior to being formally admitted to candidacy for the doctoral degree at the end of the second year of study, each student must demonstrate knowledge of biomedical physics fundamentals and a potential for succeeding in research by passing a qualifying examination. Students later complete and defend a doctoral dissertation.
Details of the curriculum and specific degree requirements are described on Stanford Bulletin.
All BMP PhD students who maintain satisfactory academic progress receive full financial support (tuition and a living stipend) for the duration of their doctoral program. However, the number of admitted students is limited by funding, hence applicants are encouraged, but not required, to apply for external fellowship support (e.g., NSF or Stanford's Knight-Hennessy Scholars program) on their own.
Application Instructions and Deadlines
Applications are due late November/early December each year. See details on the Graduate Admissions webpage.
There is a $125 application fee. Applicants who need assistance with the application fee are encouraged to apply for a fee waiver. Preference is given to low-income, first-generation, and underrepresented minority students who are U.S. citizens or permanent residents.
The Application Deadline: December 1, 2023 (11:59:59 pm PST).
- Complete the Biomedical Physics PhD application online. Note that only one Stanford PhD application per academic year is allowed, and that Biosciences, Bioengineering, and Electrical Engineering are not part of the Biomedical Physics Program.
- Submit scanned (unofficial) transcripts as part of the Biomedical Physics application. Graduate Admissions only requires admitted applicants who accept the offer of admission to submit official transcripts that shows their degree conferral. Please do not send or have sent any official transcripts to us at this time.
- See our page about the Personal Statement.
- Please include an up-to-date version of your CV.
- The GRE General Test score is not required and will not be considered if submitted. We do not require any GRE Subject Test scores.
- Application materials, including letters of recommendation, should be received by the deadline. We do review all applications, including incomplete ones.
- For materials that are mailed, please use our Contact Address.
- Please do NOT upload supporting materials, such as published papers, unpublished manuscripts, BS or MS theses, writing samples, posters, or class projects, with your application.
- Check the status of your application can be tracked through the Biomedical Physics status webpage. Interview invitations go out in early January, and interviews are in late February or early March. Offers of admission are made on a rolling basis starting in March. Finals decisions from admitted candidates are due by April 15.
- The selection of PhD students admitted to BMP is based on an individualized, holistic review of each application, including the applicant’s academic record, the letters of recommendation, the statement of purpose, personal qualities and characteristics, and past accomplishments.
- Deferral of admission: BMP generally does not allow deferral of admission to the PhD program, and it is better for you to apply when you are ready to begin your graduate study following the normal timeline. However, sometimes one's circumstances change; please contact us if that happens to you.
Frequently Asked Questions
It is highly recommended that you review our Frequently Asked Questions page.
The Biomedical Physics Program recognizes that the Supreme Court issued a ruling in June 2023 about the consideration of certain types of demographic information as part of an admission review. All applications submitted during upcoming application cycles will be reviewed in conformance with that decision.
The Biomedical Physics Program welcomes graduate applications from individuals with a broad range of life experiences, perspectives, and backgrounds who would contribute to our community of scholars. The review process is holistic and individualized, considering each applicant’s academic record and accomplishments, letters of recommendation, prior research experience, and admissions essays to understand how an applicant’s life experiences have shaped their past and potential contributions to their field and how they might enrich the learning community at Stanford.
Students are expected to enter with a series of core competencies in mathematics, biology, chemistry, physics or engineering, and computing. Students entering the program are assessed by the examination of their undergraduate transcripts and research experiences. Specifically, the department requires that students have completed mathematics through multivariable calculus and linear algebra, and must hold, or expect to hold before enrollment at Stanford, a bachelor’s degree in engineering or physical science from a U.S. college or university accredited by a regional accrediting association. Applicants from institutions outside the U.S. must hold the equivalent of a U.S. bachelor’s degree from a college or university of recognized standing. See minimum level of study required of international applicants.
Qualified applicants are encouraged to apply for predoctoral national competitive fellowships, especially those from the National Science Foundation. Applicants to the Ph.D. program should consult with their financial aid officers for information and applications.
The deadline for receiving applications is December 1, 2023. The Graduate Record Examination (GRE) is not required for admission to the Ph.D. program in Biomedical Physics.
Further information and application instructions for all graduate degree programs may be obtained from Graduate Admissions.
Application Fee and Fee Waivers
The application fee is $125 and is non-refundable. You will be prompted to pay the application fee at the time you submit your application. The acceptable form of payment is via credit card (Visa, MasterCard, American Express, JCB, Discover, and Diners Club) or bank transfer from a U.S. checking account. If you do not have a credit card then you should make arrangements with a family member or friend to use theirs. Checks by mail are not accepted.
Applicants who need assistance with the application fee are encouraged to apply for a fee waiver. Priority for fee waivers is given to applicants who are U.S. citizens or permanent residents. International applicants who need assistance with the application fee are eligible to apply for the School-Based fee waiver. For a complete list of fee waiver options and eligibility requirements, please visit the Graduate Admissions website.
Please note that fee waiver requests are required to be submitted 10 business days prior to the application deadline (December 1 at 11:59:59 pm PST); so please plan accordingly.
Why Apply Here?
• Reputation and Environment. Amplified by the astounding intellectual and technological capital of Silicon Valley, Stanford University, one of the world's leading academic institutions, is dedicated to finding solutions to big challenges and to preparing students for leadership in a complex world. Integrating a premier medical school with world-class adult and children’s hospitals, Stanford Medicine fosters an unrivaled atmosphere of interdisciplinary exploration and collaboration that has produced many of the innovations that sparked a biomedical revolution. The Biomedical Physics program is an essential component of Stanford Medicine’s commitment to excellence in education, scientific discovery, bench-to-bedside research, and clinical innovation.
• Curriculum. Our core courses span a wide array of topics, including radiation physics and therapy, imaging sciences, molecular imaging and diagnostics, with much of the material based on cutting-edge research conducted here at Stanford.
• Interdisciplinary Research Opportunities. BMP in a new PhD program housed within the Departments of Radiology and Radiation Oncology. Leveraging research and clinical expertise at Stanford Hospital, Lucile Packard Children's Hospital, and Stanford Clinics, the BMP program also includes faculty from the Stanford Biosciences, Bio-X, ChEM-H, Wu Tsai Neurosciences, Bioengineering, Electrical Engineering, and Computer Science programs, all of which are in close physical proximity on Stanford's main campus.
• Related Stanford PhD Programs. As the scope of medical physics has expanded, students pursuing careers in this field have been distributed throughout a number of training programs ranging from physics to engineering to bioengineering to biology. Situated within the clinical departments of Radiology and Radiation Oncology, the BMP program integrates novel technical developments in radiation therapy, imaging, and molecular diagnostics with the unique challenges of clinical medicine.
• Location. Situated in the heart of entrepreneurial Silicon Valley, Stanford University's campus occupies over 8000 acres, bordering Palo Alto, CA and provides easy access to the amenities of the San Francisco Bay Area.
Instructions for Writing Your Personal Statement
You are required to submit a Personal Statement as part of the Graduate Application for the BMP PhD degree.
The BMP program is designed for students interested in the application of physics and engineering principles to problems in clinical medicine, with an emphasis on translational science. The Admissions Committee will read your Personal Statement carefully to determine how well your aspirations align with the mission of the BMP PhD Program.
In your Personal Statement, please tell us how your schooling, work, research, and life experiences prepare you for study at BMP, describe your passion for research, current research interests, and career goals, and explain how our training program will enable you to achieve them.
The Personal Statement should be 1-2 pages. Please do not append class projects, research proposals, draft manuscripts, published papers, posters, or other ancillary materials.
Questions about the Program
What is the difference between Stanford's BMP program and medical physics programs in other universities?
Students pursuing careers at the intersection of technology and medicine can enroll in a variety of related Stanford programs ranging from physics to engineering to biology. Situated within the clinical departments of Radiology and Radiation Oncology, the BMP program uniquely integrates novel technical developments in radiation therapy, imaging, and molecular diagnostics with the unique challenges of clinical medicine.
Students do up to 3 rotations the first year in labs chosen through mutual agreement by the student and the faculty member.
This is a new Biomedical Physics PhD program and is not yet accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Medical Physics Education Programs (CAMPEP).
Students who successfully complete the BMP PhD program will be capable of pursuing careers in academia, clinical medicine, and industry. Graduates will be competitive for faculty positions in nationwide medical physics programs, as well as in related university departments including Bioengineering, Biomedical Engineering, Electrical Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Physics, Radiology, and Radiation Oncology. In addition, a variety of industrial positions at companies developing medical and imaging technologies would be available to graduating doctoral students. They may, for example, work for a Fortune 500 company like General Electric, a large-cap company like Varian Medical Systems, or a publicly traded company like ViewRay. All of these companies have a substantial need for Ph.D. scientists in biomedical physics as they provide unique expertise in translational medical imaging and medical therapy that is distinct form their engineering colleagues. Medical companies developing imaging, radiation therapy, and molecular diagnostics, biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies, and non-medical companies with a focus on technology development could each exploit the unique skill set of BMP graduates. Examples include Siemens Healthcare, Philips Healthcare, Canon Medical Systems, Bruker, Accuray, Elekta, IBA Worldwide, Bayer, Guerbet, Hologic, Genentech, Agilent, and Google Health. Trainees may also find professional opportunities in the federal government working at either the NIH or FDA, both of which seek scientists with the precise training provided by our program. Additional career opportunities would be available at the intersection of tech and medicine by way of local start-up companies and consulting firms.
Questions about Applying
Only you know enough about your circumstances to make this decision. We encourage all applicants to consider their personal and career goals, their background and abilities, financial constraints, and reasonable alternatives, before applying.
This is a very important decision, so it is worth your time to explore and consider your options carefully. Stanford Biomedical Physics is very interdisciplinary; if admitted, you will be able to pick research supervisors from among multiple faculty having a wide range of research interests. You should select a PhD program on the basis of your background, your interest in a particular curriculum, your fit with the program's research, and your career plans. In general, we recommend apply to BMP if you are primarily interested in the application of novel developments in radiation physics, imaging science, and molecular imaging to solve clinical problems. See also the next few FAQs.
No. You are limited to one PhD application per academic year. The Biomedical Physics PhD program is distinct from degrees offered by other Stanford programs such as Biosciences, Bioengineering, and Electrical Engineering. Therefore, it is important to decide which program best fits your background and career goals. Note that if you are accepted into another program, you are welcome to take BMP courses.
Review our website to see if our program is a good fit with your goals. The specifics depend on the degree program to which you are applying. You can find instructions for each degree under Prospective Students.
Applications to the PhD program are accepted each autumn from (roughly) mid-September to late November/early December for admission the following Autumn. For details of timing for the other degree programs, see their respective webpages. All PhD applications are reviewed together, so there is no competitive advantage in applying early; however, we very strongly recommend that you not wait until the last minute (or day).
No. We do not accept applications to the PhD program out of the normal cycle, as it causes problems both for admission’s process which is coordinated with the other Stanford programs and for arranging funding.
We are unable to answer that question for specific applicants. The BMP admissions committee considers many factors, including grades, letters of recommendation, the personal statement, prior research experience, life circumstances, and fit with our program. The decision is based on a composite of these elements in the context of all the applications we receive each cycle. You should also note that admission to our program, especially for the PhD, is very competitive, so it is to your advantage to make sure your application is as strong as you can make it in all of the listed dimensions.
Stanford requires a TOEFL score (if needed) of greater than or equal to 100. If your score is below 100 and you are accepted, Stanford requires that you retake the exam to achieve that threshold. Unfortunately, we cannot make exceptions to this rule. See here.
This is a new PhD program, so we do not yet have reliable statistics regarding the number of applicants. However, we anticipate the PhD application process will be highly competitive.
You need to submit the main application before the deadline.
Unofficial test scores (TOEFL) and unofficial transcripts should arrive before the deadline. Your unofficial transcripts and test scores will be validated when your official ones are received by the University, which can occur after the admissions deadline.
Outside of that, we strongly recommend against late applications, including letters of recommendation. We start reviewing applications immediately after the deadline closes. Incomplete applications will be reviewed, but incomplete applications are unlikely to be as strong as the complete ones, placing you at considerable disadvantage in an already very competitive application process.
We realize that the application process is anxiety provoking, and it is natural to be concerned about the possibility of information missing from your application or wondering where you are in the application ranking. After the formal deadline, if something has changed, you may email the updated information to us. We ask, though, that you refrain from contacting us to request routine updates about your status. If your application is deficient in some way, we will contact you. However, you will have to wait for interview invitations and the final admission decisions on schedule.
Oops. I forgot to upload some of the supplemental materials for my application and now the system won't let me add them. What should I do?
Applications are due late November or early December. Invitations for interviews (PhD only) go out in early January. Interviews are early March. Offers of admission are sent starting early March. Your final admission decisions are due April 15. Most students start in the Autumn (late Sept, Stanford is on quarter system).
Yes. We anticipate some of our students will have gotten other degrees, worked in industry, or had other relevant experiences before entering the BMP program.
While we understand that situation is disappointing, we are not able to provide individual feedback to unsuccessful applicants.
Due to time constraints, we are not able to accommodate all requests to meet one-on-one with our faculty prior to submitting an application, give individual tours, or meet to provide guidance about applications, the admissions process, and career planning.
We only interview a limited number of applicants. Top candidates for our PhD program will be invited out to visit us during the application process. We will contact you by mid-January if we want you to come for an interview. Note that the interview process is quite extensive; you will interview with multiple faculty and students, tour our campus, and meet with many of our current students in social settings.
Our faculty members receive many emails and requests for information. Unfortunately, they are unable to respond to all such contacts. Please email specific questions about the admissions process to us at our Contact Address.
Generally, we only admit PhD students whose funding is pre-arranged by the BMP program or outside scholarship. There is more information about funding here. As part of the admission process, we will bring your application to the attention of the appropriate faculty. Just to be clear, you apply to the BMP program; you do not apply to individual faculty labs.
I have taken some coursework at Stanford before. Can I count those units towards another degree if I am admitted?
Generally, yes. However, you can't count the same course towards two different degrees. If you have extra units from a prior degree or a currently active degree program, then those units can count towards a BMP PhD if you are admitted. The total number of units required for the relevant BMP degree does not change.
No. We anticipate accepting students from diverse backgrounds, including those with undergraduate training in physics, engineering, biomedical sciences, and computer science.
If you have already identified a possible research mentor, then you are one step ahead. However, be advised that even if admitted, there is no guarantee that that professor would have space in their lab, have appropriate funding, or be a good interpersonal match with you. In general, we recommend that you apply to Stanford BMP because your interests align well with our overall program philosophy and emphasis.
We currently only offer a PhD program.
No. Our faculty believe that the PhD must be obtained on-campus, with full-time involvement.
Transferring credit means using credit for courses taken outside of Stanford to reduce the number of credits taken at Stanford.
For the PhD degree: Yes. The PhD requires 135 units, of which 90 units must be taken at Stanford during the PhD program. Thus, you could transfer credits taken elsewhere or taken at Stanford in another graduate program. More information is here.
No. The GRE General Test score is not required and will not be considered if submitted. We do not require any GRE Subject Test scores.
TOEFL scores are required by Stanford University of all applicants whose first language is not English. There are some complications and exceptions. See the official Stanford policy for details. If you take the test near our application deadline, email the unofficial scores to us as soon as possible; the official scores can arrive after the deadline. Stanford requires a TOEFL score (if needed) of greater than or equal to 100. If your score is below 100 and you are accepted, Stanford requires that you retake the exam to achieve that threshold. Unfortunately, we cannot make exceptions to this rule. See here.
No. Stanford only accepts the TOEFL.
We welcome applications from international applicants. International applicants follow the same application process as other applicants, with additional rules and requirements listed here. 1) You need to hold a four-year bachelor’s degree in order to apply. The exact requirements vary by country and are listed on the Office of Graduate Admissions International Applicants page. 2) Applicants whose first language is not English must submit an official test score from the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL). Stanford accepts only ETS (Educational Testing Service) scores. We accept MyBest scores but at this time we are not accepting TOEFL Essentials test scores (see Stanford Graduate Admission Required Exams webpage). 3) We do not advise applicants about visas. The Bechtel International Center has information about how to maintain visas for international students. The US State Department has information about student and exchange visitor visas.
Questions about Tuition, Fees, Program Costs, Funding, and Financial Aid
All BMP PhD students who maintain satisfactory academic progress receive full financial support (tuition and a living stipend) for the duration of their doctoral program.
The fee for applying for admission to any graduate program at Stanford is $125. However, the Biomedical Physics graduate program is committed to increasing the diversity of biomedical research and Stanford University. We will offer application fee waivers to a limited number of candidates. Preference is given to low-income, first generation and underrepresented minority students who are U.S. citizens or permanent residents.
The Biomedical Physics graduate program is committed to increasing the diversity of biomedical research and Stanford University. We will provide application fee waivers to a limited number of candidates. Preference is given to low-income, first generation and underrepresented minority students who are U.S. citizens or permanent residents.
- You should only request a BMP-based waiver if you do not qualify for the GRE or Diversity Program Participation fee waivers.
- Given the limited availability of fee waivers, only request one if you are sure you will be applying for admission this application season.
- Applications for fee waivers will be reviewed and approved on a first-come, first-serve basis.
- Acceptance or denial of your application for a fee waiver does not affect your likelihood of admission into a graduate program.
- If the application fee waiver request is approved, the applicant will be sent a code to enter in the payment section of the online graduate admissions application.
- No refund will be given if you apply for a fee waiver and pay the application fee instead of using your application fee waiver code. If we deny your request for a waiver, we will instruct you to pay the fee.
Waiver Application Form:
- In 250-500 words, describe your research experiences.
- In 250 words or less, describe how your research interests and background (in terms of race, ethnicity, culture, gender identity, socioeconomic status, citizenship or immigration status, sexual orientation, disability/ability, veteran status, work, and life experiences) would contribute to the diversity (broadly defined) of students pursuing a PhD at Stanford.
- In 250 words or less describe why you believe you are eligible for and should receive a fee waiver. Priority is given to students from communities that may be systemically minoritized in biomedical research, experiencing financial hardship, qualified for federal financial aid, are first in their family to pursue an advanced degree, or are from environments with limited access to university research programs.
- List any research, honors, and diversity-related programs in which you have participated.
- Send the materials in items 1-4 above along with your name, mailing address, phone, and email address to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject “Fee Waiver Request”.
All fee waiver requests must be submitted no later than November 10th.
How much does it cost to live close to Stanford University or in the SF Bay Area? How can I find out about my housing options?
Send us email (Contact Us). We are busy keeping all the machinery behind the scenes running smoothly, but we try to respond to every inquiry within one to two business days. It is much better to email us questions directly rather than asking us if you can call.