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An interdisciplinary curriculum and excellent career perspectives

Prof. Julia Herzen talks about the new interdisciplinary master’s program “Biomedical Engineering and Medical Physics”

2019-11-16 – News from the Physics Department

The first students in the new TUM Master’s degree program “Biomedical Engineering and Medical Physics” will begin in summer semester 2020. In this interview, Julia Herzen, professor of Biomedical Imaging and Speaker of the Study Program, explains why interdisciplinarity is decisive in biomedical technology, what is needed to successfully complete the curriculum and why the degree offers excellent career perspectives.

Prof. Julia Herzen
Prof. Julia Herzen – Image: Astrid Eckert / TUM

The new Master’s degree program is called “Biomedical Engineering and Medical Physics”. What are the students going to learn?

We want this research-oriented and interdisciplinary degree program to prepare students for jobs in research and industry in sectors such as Biomedical Technologies and Medical Physics. In particular, we want to teach them the basics in biology, physics and the engineering sciences which they will need for their careers.

Does this mean the graduates will be developing new medical equipment?

There’s more to it than that. When we say that this is a research-oriented degree program, it means that we want to promote the development of methods for Biomedical Technology. The students will learn to understand concepts of physics, to implement them using the methods of engineering sciences, and to apply them in a manner that is useful to medicine.

Biomedical Technology is a broad field. Will the curriculum feature areas of specialization ?

In the beginning the students will be able to choose between specializing in Biomedical Imaging and Biosensors . But the curriculum is designed to be flexible so that the areas of specialization can also change over time.

What makes the interdisciplinary approach so important?

Well, it wouldn’t make sense for me as a physicist to develop a new method that is of no use to doctors. I have to work together with the physicians from the very beginning in order to create a practically useful device. And in order for this collaboration to succeed, those involved have to find a common language – the engineers have to understand the language of the physicians and the physicists have to understand the language of the engineers. And if you don’t learn this during your studies, it can burn up a lot of time later.

How does the organization of the curriculum reflect an interdisciplinary character?

Although the degree program is organizationally anchored in the Physics Department, the students will attend lectures at various faculties, for example the Department of Mechanical Engineering and at TUM’s university hospital Klinikum rechts der Isar. The degree program is also closely linked with the Munich School of BioEngineering, which has followed an interdisciplinary approach for a long time. For example, the students will be able to write their Master’s theses with any member of the MSB – including those who are not in the Physics Department. That’s a real first for a physics degree program.

The idea for the practical physics training is an innovation as well.

That’s right. In their practical training physics students usually learn about various aspects of physics in individual experiments. We wanted to take a different approach: Each of our students will conduct one experiment with an appropriate degree of complexity, which introduces them to projects they will be encountering in research and industry. An example could be that a student performs an experiment using a CT device, characterizing it, learning to determine the appropriate dosage for a patient, and then independently learning to implement a modern examination method with this device.

The degree program is conducted in English. Why is that?

We want to become more international. We’ve noted that as yet not much is being offered in English on Biomedical Technology in our region, and we saw that another English-language physics degree program at TUM attracted a large number of good students. In addition, there are several very good Bachelor’s degree programs in Biomedical Engineering in neighboring countries. The graduates of these programs meet the basic prerequisites for our study program, and we’d like to attract many of them to join our program.

What are the necessary prerequisites that candidates will need to succeed in this degree program?

They won’t necessarily need to have a Bachelor’s degree in physics; we’d be glad to see students with degrees in biology, chemistry or computer science applying as well. The important thing is that the candidates have a good foundation in mathematics and physics, and some chemistry, biology and physiology. They should for example know how cells work, how they reproduce and how they die. Another important factor is laboratory experience, whether from their prior studies or from a practical internship in industry. Candidates who don’t have these abilities will have a tough time with the practical training. The details on the prerequisites and the application procedure can be found on the web site.

How do the career perspectives look for graduates?

They look very, very good. There is great demand among medical technology companies for graduates in Biomedical Technologies and related fields – especially here in southern Germany. And there are plenty of opportunities in research, for example at the Fraunhofer institutes, Max-Planck institutes or at the Helmholtz research centers.

Our research group has supervised Master’s degree students in Biomedical Imaging for ten years now. Four of the graduates stayed in research and are working in the USA and the United Kingdom. The others are working in industry – in some cases outside the boundaries of medical technology per se. For example, automobile manufacturers also maintain CT laboratories for materials research. And the demand for specialists in areas such as image processing, image recognition and Artificial Intelligence is generally on the rise.

Interview
Dr. Paul Piwnicki

About Julia Herzen

Physicist Julia Herzen is Professor for Biomedical Imaging at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) and Speaker of the Study Program for the Master’s curriculum “Biomedical Engineering and Medical Physics”. Her research focuses on further development of x-ray computed tomography, utilizing a variety of physical phenomena such as phase contrast. She is currently concentrating on improved procedures for breast cancer diagnostics and methods for three-dimensional representation of histological samples.

More Information

Applications for the Master’s program in Biomedical Engineering and Medical Physics beginning in the summer semester 2020 will be accepted until 30 November 2019.

Contact

Prof. Dr. rer. nat. Julia Herzen
Research Group Biomedical Imaging Physics
Technical University of Munich
Tel: +49 89 289-14532
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