Engineering Physics
Learn about magnetic resonance, from the physical principles of Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) to the basic concepts of image reconstruction (MRI).

Course Details

Language English
Duration 6 week
Effort 5 hour/week

This physics course covers the physical principles of major in vivo bio-imaging modalities.

This course will focus on magnetic resonance imaging, also known as an MRI. In the first part of the course, the dynamic of spins in a magnetic field is described, leading to the essential notions of magnetic resonance (MR), excitation and relaxation. We will also discuss the basic mechanisms of image reconstruction, MR spectroscopy and functional MRI.

You will learn how existing physical principles transcend into bio-imaging and establish an important link into life sciences, illustrating the contributions physics can make to life sciences. Practical examples will be shown to illustrate the respective imaging modality, its use, premise and limitations, and biological safety will be touched upon.
During this course, you will develop a good understanding of the mechanisms leading to tissue contrast of the bio-imaging modalities covered in this course, including the inner workings of the scanner and how they define the range of possible biomedical applications. You will be able to judge which imaging modality is adequate for specific life science needs and to understand the limits and promises of each modality.

What you will learn

  • Understand the essential principles of operation of magnetic resonance (MRI).

  • Differentiate the imaging modalities, describe their fundamental promises and limitations.

  • Deduce which imaging technique is appropriate for a given situation.

  • Describe/analyze typical applications.


It is recommended to have followed Biomedical Imaging: Ultrasounds, X-ray, positron emission tomography (PET) and applications. It is also recommended to have followed introductory physics at the Bachelor level and to be familiar with the concept of Fourier transformation.


  1. Introduction to biological magnetic resonance (MR) - Boltzmann distribution, from spins to magnetization

  2. Excitation of spins, Relaxation, the Basis of MR contrast (The Bloch Equations)

  3. MR spectroscopy

  4. From Fourier to image: principles of MR image formation, k-space - echo formation

  5. Basic MRI contrast mechanisms, BOLD fMRI, contrast agents

  6. Advanced contrast mechanisms & overview of imaging modalities

Course instructors

Prof. Rolf Gruetter

Rolf Gruetter is Professor at EPFL Head of the Laboratory for functional and metabolic imaging and Director of the Center for Biomedical Imaging (CIBM) since 2004. He received his undergraduate and graduate degrees in Physics and Biophysics, respectively …

École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne

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