M.S. and Ph.D. student in radiation oncology with a focus in medical physics
Studying medical physics at Karmanos Cancer Center, Rebecca received the American Association of Physicists in Medicine (AAPM) Fellowship for Graduate Study in Medical Physics (2016), the Wayne State University Graduate Professional Scholarship (2016 and 2017), and the Wayne State University Physics Graduate Student Research Award (2016 and 2017).
Driven by her passion to help those suffering and her family’s own history with cancer, Rebecca Culcasi knew she wanted to combat the disease.
“Being self-aware enough to honestly assess my academic ability,” she says, “medical physics became the natural fit for me to realize my dream.”
There was little question of where she’d pursue this degree.
“WSU’s medical physics program was not only one of the first to become an accredited program but is among the most established and prestigious programs in the world.”
Why? The hands-on research and accessibility to established professionals in the field are unparalleled.
The medical physics program is housed in Karmanos Cancer Center’s Radiation Oncology Department, a premier facility that neighbors Wayne State’s campus. “In our department, we work alongside radiation oncologists and therapists to create treatment plans for cancer patients and ensure safe delivery of their radiation treatment,” she says. “Students are trained in a clinical environment and work with the machines patients are treated on.” And the university’s Detroit location ensures access to “a dense and diverse community” with “unique and challenging medical cases.”
“I’ve gained exposure to and perspectives on things that I otherwise wouldn’t have been able to, which has been invaluable for my academic and professional career.”
Rebecca has represented Wayne State on a national scale by presenting her research at conferences in Washington D.C., Denver, and Nashville, serving on a subcommittee that prepares professionals in her field, and earning the American Association of Physicists in Medicine Fellowship for Graduate Study in Medical Physics (2016). A highly competitive fellowship granted to one doctoral student in the nation biannually.
“I see [the AAPM fellowship] as recognition of all the hard work and sacrifices I have put in so far to get to where I am.” It gives her the motivation to press on, she says.
In addition to being recognized by AAPM, Rebecca has earned the Wayne State University Graduate Professional Scholarship twice, and the Wayne State University Physics Graduate Student Research Award twice. Achievements that provided the financial stability for her to focus primarily on her academic pursuits.
After earning her degree, Rebecca hopes to practice clinically “in one of our acclaimed local health systems [while] holding an academic position in order to teach and conduct research.”
Her tip for students to get the most out of graduate school?
“It is imperative to one’s success that they have a strong work ethic. The degree itself doesn’t confer expertise, it’s the work behind the degree.”