Medical Physics and Biomedical Engineering


MPHY0019: MRI & Biomedical Optics

Course information 

Year of study



Course lecturers

3, 4 and PG

Term 2

Exam 80%, Coursework 20%

Karin Shmueli and John Thornton (MRI)
Robert Cooper (Biomedical Optics, and module organiser)


This module is an introduction to both magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and Biomedical Optics as used in clinical applications, with an emphasis on the underlying physical principles. It will provide a solid foundation for students who wish to:

a) understand the physical principles of MRI and Biomedical Optics,

b) understand how medical physics can be used to improve clinical practice,

c) pursue research, or develop clinical or industrial applications, in MRI or Biomedical Optics.

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion of this module the students will be able to:


• Apply basic physical principles to explain how Magnetic Resonance works,

• Summarize the processes and instrumentation components involved in creating useful MR images,

• Calculate MRI contrast, image and sequence parameters for basic MRI pulse sequences,

• Construct accurate pulse sequence and k-space diagrams for standard MRI pulse sequences,

• Outline the hazards, safe levels and safety precautions associated with MRI,

• Critically assess the advantages and disadvantages of MRI relative to other imaging modalities,

• Describe some of the applications of advanced MRI contrast mechanisms.

Biomedical Optics

• Describe the various mechanisms through which light and tissue interact, and

the basic physics underpinning lasers

• Explain the various effects, photochemical, thermal, mechanical, that can arise following the interaction of light with biological tissue,

• Define tissue optical properties such as absorption and scattering,

• Summarize and apply methods for estimating light transport in tissue,

• Recognise the requirements for the safe usage of lasers.

• Describe various clinical applications of light, both diagnostic and therapeutic. 

• Understand the advantages and disadvantages of using light in clinical practice.

Exams & Coursework

The year 3 and year 4 variants will differ in the amount of coursework that is set. The exam, in term 3, will be the same.


There are no strict prerequisites, but some knowledge is assumed. Mathematics: algebra, trigonometry, basic calculus, complex numbers, exponentials, vectors and vector calculus notation. Physics: conservation laws, simple classical rotational mechanics, Boltzmann distribution, basic quantum mechanical concepts.

Brief Syllabus

Part I: Magnetic Resonance Imaging

• Basic nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) theory

• NMR signal acquisition

• Basic MR imaging theory

• MRI scanner hardware 

• Tissue contrast in imaging 

• K-space 

• Advanced imaging sequences

• Advanced image contrast mechanisms

• MRI safety

Part II: Biomedical Optics

• Introduction – Why use light in medicine?

• Sources and detectors of light

• Light-tissue interactions

• Theory of light propagation in tissue

• Optical imaging & diagnosis

• Light-based therapies & safety

Some Texts & Links


• D. W. McRobbie, E. A. Moore, M. J. Graves and M.R. Prince, MRI From Picture to Proton, Cambridge 2003

• M. A. Brown and R. C. Semelka, MRI Basic Principles and Applications, Wiley-Liss, Inc. Second Edition 1999. ISBN 0-471-33062-0

• H. Schild, MRI made easy, Schering, 1990.

Biomedical Optics

• A.J. Welch & M.J.C. van Gemert, Optical-Thermal Response of Laser-Irradiated Tissue, Springer, 2011

• Lihong Wang & Hsin-i Wu, Biomedical Optics: Principles and Imaging, Wiley, 2007

• M.H. Niemz, Laser-tissue interactions : fundamentals and applications, Springer, 2004

Journal of Biomedical Optics

Biomedical Optics Express