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Further material in medical physics

This course will be of interest if you are working in the field of medical physics and studying our MSc in Medical Physics, and if you have a physics or engineering background. If you wish to improve your understanding of human anatomy and physiology, reinforce your understanding of the equipment you use in the context of health and safety in the medical environment, and understand the relevance of statistics in both research and practice, then S829 is for you. Your learning will be supported by four interactive online assessments and there is an examination at the end of the module.

What you will study

S829 addresses three subject areas:

  • anatomy and physiology
  • health and safety in the medical environment
  • statistics.

You will learn

By the end of S829 you should be able to:

  • understand the principles of biological organisation, and the basics of cell structure, function, division and growth
  • explain the structure and function of the major organ systems of the human body and the physiological basis of human reproduction
  • understand the principles relating to the safe use of non-ionising radiation, electrical and mechanical systems, and chemicals in the clinical environment
  • recognise the need for the use of statistics in medical research and can describe key concepts
  • learn effectively from unstructured, resource-based learning materials
  • develop skills in finding, selecting and using information and data in defined contexts
  • identify and assess a range of hazards in a given clinical environment and provide advice as to minimising those hazards
  • apply the relevant anatomical and physiological knowledge to clinical situations
  • identify situations in clinical research/practice where statistics are essential.

Vocational relevance

Further materials in medical physics will be of particular interest if you are working in medical physics and wish to undertake continued professional development. 


To register on this course you must normally hold a UK honours degree (or equivalent qualification) in physics or engineering. If you have other study or experience that you believe equips you to study for this course you can still apply, but must supply evidence of that study or experience. Your case will be referred to our MSc in Science Admissions Panel. For further advice, email the postgraduate science team. You must normally also have completed or be studying either Imaging in medicine (S809) or {Radiotherapy and its physics [S819]}. The timing of the presentations of S829 is designed to allow you to study it between S809 and S819.

You will need good computing skills (e.g. able to search the Web, use email, use word processing packages, and take part in online forums). Ability to carry out mathematical manipulations is also necessary (e.g. algebraic rearrangement of equations, use exponentials and logs).

All teaching is in English and your proficiency in the English language should be adequate for the level of study you wish to take. We strongly recommend that you have achieved an International English Language Testing System (IELTS) score of at least 7. To assess your English language skills in relation to your proposed studies you can visit the IELTS website.

If you have any doubt about the suitability of the course, please contact our Student Registration & Enquiry Service.


S829 is an optional module in our:

S829 is required if you are following the 190-credit pathway through the MSc in Medical Physics for accreditation by the Institute of Physics and Engineering in Medicine (IPEM).

Some postgraduate qualifications allow study to be chosen from other subject areas. We advise you to refer to the relevant qualification descriptions for information on the circumstances in which this module can count towards these qualifications because from time to time the structure and requirements may change.


As a student of The Open University, you should be aware of the content of the Module Regulations and the Student Regulations which are available on our Essential documents website.

If you have a disability

This course is delivered entirely online through the website including interactive exercises. The core teaching materials are available in either Adobe PDF or a printable format on the website. Some of the Adobe PDF components may not be available or fully accessible using a screen reader and mathematical and scientific materials as well as diagrams may be particularly difficult to read in this way.

You should note that some of the reading material for S829 is accessed via links to externally sourced documents and websites and this material may not be accessible using a screen reader.

Time spent using a personal computer and online will be considerable. If you use specialist hardware or software to assist you in operating a computer or the internet and have any concerns about accessing the types of study materials outlined you are advised to talk to our Student Registration & Enquiry Service about support which can be given to meet your needs.

Study materials

What's included

All study materials will be provided online via the website and will include a Course Guide and Study Guide as well as student forums and links to other websites and externally sourced documents.

Teaching and assessment

Study support

You will be able to discuss the study material in the online forums, which will be moderated by a study adviser who will be able to offer academic support and answer queries.


The assessment details can be found in the facts box above.

Your work on the study materials will be supported by four interactive online assessments. These do not contribute to your final mark for the course but will allow you to reinforce and assess your own learning. The course is assessed by an invigilated exam, which comprises questions of a format similar to those in the earlier interactive computer-marked assessments.

Professional recognition

The OU has gained approval from the UK Institute of Physics and Engineering in Medicine (IPEM) for accreditation of an MSc in Medical Physics consisting of Imaging in medicine (S809), {Radiotherapy and its physics [S819]}, a project module and this course. This is open to students with an honours degree in physics or engineering. If you intend following this pathway you will also need to make sure that your project is of a practical, investigative nature requiring either laboratory work or computing – see the MSc in Medical Physics (F50).

If you are based outside the UK, this course (combined with S809, S819 and a project module) may fulfil the requirements of the relevant accrediting body for medical physics in your country.

Future availability

The details given here are for the final course starting in November 2013. 

Distance learning

The Open University is the world's leading provider of flexible, high quality distance learning. Unlike other universities we are not campus based. You will study in a flexible way that works for you whether you're at home, at work or on the move. As an OU student you'll be supported throughout your studies - your tutor or study adviser will guide and advise you, offer detailed feedback on your assignments, and help with any study issues. Tuition might be in face-to-face groups, via online tutorials, or by phone.

For more information about distance learning at the OU read Study explained.

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