Physics for Students in Health Careers

Course Sequence

Physics is one of the most important subjects for a student interested in Health Careers.  First and foremost, physics is about quantitatively modeling the world around us.  Developing these skills will be key to your future success.  Secondly, from biomechanics to neuroscience, understanding how living things function requires a strong foundation in physics.  Thirdly, one needs to understand physics to understand the diagnostic and treatment tools commonly used in medicine:  blood pressure, magnetic resonance imaging, magnetoencephalography, positron emission tomography, ultrasound, radiotherapy…

Most medical schools require applicants to complete one of the following sequences:

(A) PHYS 1101-1102:


(B) PHYS 2207-2208


(C) PHYS 1112-2213-2214 (PHYS 1110 is required as a co-requisite with PHYS 1112 or PHYS 1116).


(D) PHYS 1116-2217-2218 (PHYS 1110 is required as a co-requisite with PHYS 1112 or PHYS 1116.  PHYS 2210 is required as a co-requisite with PHYS 2218).

The most common sequences for Arts and Science or CALS students are (A) or (B).  The most common sequence for Engineering students is (C).  Sequence (D) is the Honors version of (C), and is very challenging.

PHYS 1101-1102 is an algebra based self-paced autotutorial sequence, featuring a unique learning environment where students have the opportunity to seek one-on-one help from experienced teachers, yet have a large degree of control over their schedule.  PHYS 2207-2208 is a calculus based sequence featuring more traditionally structured lectures, recitations and labs.  Freshmen are not permitted to enroll in PHYS 1101, but are welcome to enroll in PHYS 2207.  Students often find that the course format (autotutorial vs lecture) is more important than the mathematics level (algebra vs calculus).

One can “mix and match” courses from the various sequences, but should consult with the instructors ahead of time.

Students with an interest in Health Careers who want a deeper understanding of Biophysics may be interested in the Physics Minor, Biomedical Engineering Minor, or the Physics Major with an Outside Concentration.  One particular course worth considering is AEP 2520 (The Physics of Life).


Is PHYS 2207 harder than PHYS 1101?

No.  These courses are both cover the same rich set of concepts and develop the same problem solving tools.

How much Calculus is used in PHYS 2207?

If you have passed MATH 1110 (or equivalent) then you are amply prepared.  There are no complicated integrals or derivatives, however the language and notation of calculus is used.  For example, velocity is defined as a derivative of position with respect to time.

When should I take Physics?

There are many thoughts on this.  Some see Physics as a “capstone science” which should be taken as a Junior.  This lets you bring much of your experience as a scholar.  It also means that there will be less of a delay between learning Physics and taking the MCAT (or other standardized exams).  Others see Physics as a “foundation science” which should be taken as a Freshman.  This gives you a set of tools early in your career which you can use in your further science courses.  In the end, you may find that scheduling ends up determining when you take Physics.  A course like PHYS 2207 has three hours per week of lecture, two hours per week of recitation, and two hour labs.  Fitting it in with your other courses can be challenging.

I have never taken Physics before, is PHYS 1101 or PHYS 2207 better for me?

This is a great question.  There is not, however only one answer.  The advantage of PHYS 2207 is that it has more structure.  This can be important when you are new to a subject.  The advantage of PHYS 1101 is that the individualized instruction format makes it easy to put extra effort in at times when you are having difficulty.