PhD opportunity for medical physicists in low & middle-income countries

Categories: Care, Education, and Research.

The IAEA is launching a new five-year Coordinated Research Project (CRP) commencing in 2019 that will upgrade medical physicists in low- and middle-income countries (LMIC) to PhD level. The ‘Doctoral CRP on Advances in Radiotherapy Techniques’ (E24022) is expected to benefit Member States both clinically, by resulting in increased local implementation of advanced radiotherapy techniques, and academically, enhancing the potential to initiate local postgraduate programs and producing publications in the field of advanced radiotherapy medical physics.


The CRP will comprise five participating teams. Each team will bring together one PhD student from a developing country with two supervisors, one from the local university from which the degree will be awarded and a second, remote co-supervisor who is considered an expert on the topic of the PhD research, and who will act as a mentor from a developed country. Together, the team will conduct research on themes associated with modern radiotherapy, with the local supervisor acting as principal scientific investigator and contract holder for the CRP. The participating student must be admitted to a PhD programme at a local institution. The local supervisor will have the main responsibility to guide the student throughout their studies, and dissertation preparation, submission and examination process. The second, remote mentor will provide guidance to ensure the high quality and scientific relevance of the research project.

Research topics

Those selected to take part will have to identify and choose a research topic in the field of advanced radiotherapy that will be of clinical importance to the local practices.  Such potential research topics include but are not limited to motion management and margins; advanced image guided radiation therapy (IGRT) tools; development of national audit methodologies for advanced radiotherapy techniques; advanced dosimetry and modelling; individualized patient quality assurance (QA); automation in radiotherapy; and quality and safety.

This new CRP builds upon the success of two previous CRPs: the ‘Doctoral CRP on Quality Assurance of the Physical Aspects of Advanced Technology in Radiotherapy’ (E24015) which ran between 2008 and 2013 and resulted in four medical physicists completing their PhDs, and ‘Advances in Medical Imaging Techniques’ (E24019) which ran from 2012-2017 and saw three medical physicists complete PhDs in addition to two who are currently finalizing their PhD projects.

The application process will be with two steps. The first stage is submission of a concept note in the form of a questionnaire, that includes the details of the local supervisor and PhD candidate. Applications are encouraged with established partnerships and existing research teams (local supervisor, PhD candidate and remote mentor) teams. However, if a remote mentor has not been identified the IAEA can suggest a remote mentor with the required expertise during the concept phase. A pre-screening will be done of the concept notes. For successful candidates the team will be invited to submit a full application. Acceptance at both stages does not imply that the award will be given.

CRP overall objective and expected outcome

The primary objective of this CRP is to enhance the academic development of specialist medical physicists in LMICs.  Clinically, it will directly benefit the quality and effectiveness of health services in participating Member States through the development and adoption of advanced radiotherapy techniques. It will also enhance the capabilities of participating Member States to become involved with state-of-the-art scientific research and to establish international scientific networks.

Relating to the five participating medical physics PhD students, the overall expected outcomes will include gaining their PhDs along with knowledge and capacity to improve the clinical practice in radiotherapy at the local and national level. In addition, once these students have completed their doctoral studies, they will be able to coordinate, support and update or initiate education and training programmes for the next generation of medical physicists at their institution or other institutions at a national or regional level.

The CRP will address several of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), including SDG 3 to ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages; SDG 4 to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all; SDG 8 to promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all; SDG 9 to build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation; and SDG 10 to reduce inequality within and among countries.


To support some expenses of the project each Research Contract awarded to the local institution in the framework of this CRP is associated with an annual financial support of 8,000 euros per year for a period of 4 years (subject to annual review), while (remote mentors) are not associated with any financial support. All participants of the CRP are required to attend three Research Coordination Meetings at the Agency’s expense. During the application process teams will be expected to provide a detailed budget.

Duration – Applications

The expected duration of the CRP is 4 years (2019-2023) with a possible non-funded extension of 1 year. The first Research Coordination Meeting is planned for 2 – 6 December 2019 in Vienna, Austria. Information on the IAEA Coordinated Research Programme and how to apply for research contracts and research agreements can be found at the CRA website.

For further information related to this CRP, potential applicants could contact the Project Officer via e-mail.

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