Engineering in Medical Imaging 2: Ionizing Techniques

  • Date: Oct. 17, 2022 - Dec. 11, 2022
  • Format: online
  • Days to complete Days to complete: 56
This is the second course in a 2-semester investigation into the engineering of medical imaging modalities. These courses will provide the student with a functional understanding of some of the most common applications of engineering in medical imaging. This course will include discussions of the underlying physics, device operation, image formation, and clinical applications of medical images. This course is part of a Certificate Program series: Course 1: Engineering in Medical Imaging 1: Non-Ionizing Techniques Course 2: Engineering in Medical Imaging 2: Ionizing Techniques Course 3: Medical Image Data Collection & Management Course 4: Applications for Clinical Engineering

Course Description

Engineering in Medical Imaging 2: Ionizing Techniques 
University of Missouri 

Instructor: Robert Thomen, PhD
Email: [email protected]
Office Hours: By appointment (Med Sci Building, M210P)
Text: Selected Readings
Lectures: Asynchronous Online Video
Final Exam: TBD
Course Website: (Canvas)
Prerequisites: Calculus I, Physics I, and Physics II (or equivalents)

Overview: This is the second course in a 2-semester investigation into the engineering of medical imaging modalities. These courses will provide the student with a functional understanding of some of the most common applications of engineering in medical imaging. This course will include discussions of the underlying physics, device operation, image formation, and clinical applications of medical images including in-depth discussions on
x-ray imaging including projection x-ray, mammography, fluoroscopy, and computed tomography (CT), nuclear medicine (radiopharmaceuticals, scintigraphy, SPECT, PET), and radiation therapy (photon and particle). This course focuses specifically on ionizing radiation and thus will also contain discussion of radiobiology. To appropriately understand these modalities requires a solid grasp of fundamental concepts taught within 
undergraduate level physics, mathematics, and engineering courses. This is an upper-level undergraduate/graduate course specifically targeted toward students with interest in careers in biomedical engineering, clinical technology, and medicine. Thus, a large portion of lecture will be dedicated to both 
theoretical development and applications in research and medicine. Of course, the ultimate goal of this course (and hopefully every course you take in higher education) is to develop the student to be a critical thinker!

Course Organization

Course Format and Grading: Course lectures will be presented as asynchronous video lectures organized in weekly-ish modules. Each module will comprise a set of objectives, assigned readings/videos, video lectures, and a homework assignment. Course grade will be determined by number of points earned throughout the semester based on a combination of homework and exams. 



Objectives (You will be able to…)


Math Review

·   Calculate cross products, gradients, divergence, curl, and Laplacians.

·   Perform arithmetic with complex numbers and plot them on the Argand plane.

1 Interactions of EM waves with Matter

·    Identify substructure of the standard model of particle physics.

·   Identify the various mechanisms by which light can interact with matter (Rayleigh, Compton, photoelectric, pair production).

·   Identify the various mechanisms by which charged particles can interact with matter (bremsstrahlung).



·   Recognize the difference between ionizing/nonionizing radiation.

·   Contrast stochastic/deterministic effects of radiation damage.

·   Calculate KERMA and dose.

·   Recognize various models of cell survival from radiation by calculating relevant parameters related to the direct and indirect damage of DNA by ionizing radiation.


X-ray production

· Explain the design of the x-ray tube and production of bremsstrahlung radiation.

· Calculate current, voltage, and power of x-ray tube electronics.

· Identify elements of x-ray detectors used in medicine.


Projection X-ray

· Calculate x-ray attenuation (linear attenuation coefficients, mass attenuation).

·  Relate how photon energy affects image quality and patient dose.

· Calculate x-ray image properties (signal/noise, resolution, magnification).

· Explain how mammography and fluoroscopy systems are specialized.


X-ray Computed Tomography (CT)

· Explain the basic principle of how a CT scan works.

· Explain the radon transform and calculate integrals of attenuation from µ(x).

· Apply the principles of backprojection, filtered backprojection, and iterative reconstruction.

· Calculate dose for CT scan given resolution and SNR.



· Calculate radioactivity and the relationship between half-life and decay rates.

· Identify decay chains and products for unstable nuclei.

· Describe the processes by which radiopharmaceuticals are produced by cyclotrons, reactors, and generators.

· Optimize the mathematics and process of milking cows.


Nuclear Medicine (scintigraphy, SPECT, PET)

· Explain processes and hardware for detection of radioactivity.

· Describe the construction of a gamma camera and aspects of construction which relate to efficiency and image quality.

· Explain how SPECT works.

· Explain how PET works.


Radiation Therapy

· Explain the theory of tumor ablation by high energy radiation.

· Compare/contrast photon vs ion therapy and the advantages/disadvantages of each.

· Describe the construction of a radiation gantry and accelerator operation.


Course Objectives: 
By the end of the course, students will be able to…

• Calculate the parameters relating to ionizing radiation waves, atomic and nuclear structure, light 
matter interactions, and radioactivity.
• Quantify and analyze ionizing radiation on cells including calculations of dose and kerma.
• Explain x-ray production and the underlying operation of an x-ray tube and x-ray detectors.
• Discuss methods for production of radiopharmaceuticals and radiotracers for use in diagnostic nuclear 
• Calculate statistical parameters related to radioactivity detection in medicine.
• Explain the processes of medical image production by:

o X-ray (projection, mammography, fluoroscopy, CT),
o Nuclear medicine (scintigraphy, SPECT, PET),
o Radiation Therapy (IMRT, proton, heavy ion)



Robert Thomen, PhD

Email: [email protected]

Office Hours:

By appointment (Med Sci Building, M210P)

Office hours: I do not have dedicated office hours as my schedule can vary week to week. However, please feel free to send me a quick email if you’d like to meet either online or in person. I’m happy to make time as necessary. I will do my best to respond to email quickly (within a day or two).


Lectures: The primary informational resource for this course are video lectures. The readings and lectures will be posted in each respective module along with an assignment pertaining to the module material. Lecture slides will be uploaded to Canvas as well for the student to download and follow along, but note that my slides are not ‘notes’ – they are visual aids. Relying on the slides alone without taking notes during the lecture (let alone attending the lecture) will leave many gaps in your understanding of the material.

Readings: There is no required textbook for this course – all reading materials and resources will be provided on Canvas and should be completed by the student prior to viewing the relevant lectures. I have selected the ‘best’ chapters from a number of texts which will, for the most part, comprise each weekly reading assignment. For the interested student, the most common standard text is Bushberg et al.’s Essential Physics of Medical Imaging.

Homework: Each module includes a set of exercises pertaining to the module material which the student must complete by the assigned due date/time. Late homework will not be accepted since solutions will be posted on the due date – once solutions are posted I cannot accept the assignment. Any exceptions must be approved by the instructor before the due date. Collaboration with fellow students on homework is encouraged so long as each student completes his/her own work (i.e., copying someone else’s solution to a problem does not constitute collaboration, and you will not learn the material this way). I recommend independently working through as much of each problem as you can before consulting with others. You’ll learn the material much better this way and perform better on exams! The student is allowed to use any available resources to complete the assignments including textbooks, online resources such as Wikipedia, online integral calculators such as Wolfram Alpha, etc.

Exams: A total of three exams will be given. Percentage of total grade is given in the point allocation chart. Exams will be open book, open note, open calculator, open internet, open anything except other people (classmates, instructors, former students, grandma, anyone!). The instructor will provide a sheet of potentially helpful equations with the exam.


For a successful online course experience, clear, thoughtful communication is essential. Discussion forums and course communications are important venues for exchanging ideas and promoting learning. Your instructor and fellow participants wish to foster a safe and inclusive online learning environment. Constructive criticism and questions are encouraged; however, you will be expected to remain professional and courteous in all of your posts. You are encouraged to comment, question or critique an idea, but you are not to attack an individual.

Our differences, some of which are outlined in the University of Missouri's nondiscrimination statement, will add richness to this learning experience. Please consider that sarcasm and humor can be misconstrued in online interactions and generate unintended disruptions. Working as a community of learners, we can build a polite and respectful course atmosphere. As your instructor, I reserve the right to delete any forum posts or blog entries I deem to be inappropriate for the course.


We value the voice of every student in this course. We embrace our diversity as a group—in race, gender, age, sexual orientation and gender identity, religion, language, ability, culture, ethnicity, socioeconomic and veteran status, —is an asset, resource and strength that is critical to our learning experience.  As a result, we are committed to designing inclusive lessons and assignments that encourage diverse perspectives to be recognized and respected, while providing you with the opportunity to speak and be heard, explore your own understanding, and engage with one another.

Assessment and Grading


Percentage of Available Points



Percent of Final Grade





Homework (8 assignments) – 40%





Exam 1 – 15%





Exam 2 – 15%





Final Exam – 30%






Course Completion

Provide learners with a clear and complete description of the criteria that will be used to evaluate their work and participation in the course. State these criteria up front at the beginning of the course. The description or statement of criteria provides learners with clear guidance on your expectations and the required components of coursework and participation. The criteria give learners the information they need to understand how a grade or score on an assignment or activity will be calculated.

Explain how successful completion of the course will be recognized. If the course does not grant academic credit, specify the form of recognition to be received for completion of the course. Examples include

  • Pass/fail grade
  • Professional certification
  • Printed certificate of completion
  • Verification of participation

Academic Integrity and Accommodations

Academic Integrity: The University’s academic integrity statement is given below, and a fuller explanation of the University’s policies can be found at

Statement for Academic Dishonesty: Academic integrity is fundamental to the activities and principles of a university.  All members of the academic community must be confident that each person's work has been responsibly and honorably acquired, developed, and presented.  Any effort to gain an advantage not given to all students is dishonest whether or not the effort is successful.  The academic community regards breaches of the academic integrity rules as extremely serious matters.  Sanctions for such a breach may include academic sanctions from the instructor, including failing the course for any violation, to disciplinary sanctions ranging from probation to expulsion.  When in doubt about plagiarism, paraphrasing, quoting, collaboration, or any other form of cheating, consult the course instructor.

Students with Disabilities:

If you anticipate barriers related to the format or requirements of this course, if you have emergency medical information to share with me, or if you need to make arrangements in case the building must be evacuated, please let me know as soon as possible.  If disability related accommodations are necessary (for example, a note taker, extended time on exams, captioning), please register with the Office of Disability Services (, S5 Memorial Union, 882-4696, and then notify me of your eligibility for reasonable accommodations. For other MU resources for students with disabilities, click on "Disability Resources" on the MU homepage.

Statement for Intellectual Pluralism: The University community welcomes intellectual diversity and respects student rights. Students who have questions or concerns regarding the atmosphere in this class (including respect for diverse opinions) may contact the Departmental Chair or Divisional Director; the Director of the Office of Students Rights and Responsibilities (; or the MU Equity Office (, or by email at [email protected] All students will have the opportunity to submit an anonymous evaluation of the instructor(s) at the end of the course.

Technical Requirements

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If you have questions or need additional help, please please email Canvas Support. You can find more information on the technical requirements on the Canvas website.


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