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Becky McCoy

Lesson Title: MRI Virtual Lab Timing: 120 minutes

Target Audience:
11th and 12th grade Physics course

Students Will Be Able To:
• Mirror the process of using an MRI through the PhET simulation.
• Apply their knowledge of Chemistry and Magnetism to MRI machines.
• Learn how the content they are studying has been applied in healthcare.

The Teacher Will Be Able To:

• Give students opportunities to learn the content through different applications.
• Scaffold students’ learning so they can discover the magnetic principles relevant to their

Standards Assessed:
New York State Standards in Physics
4.1 Observe and describe transmission of various forms of energy.
xv. map the magnetic field of a permanent magnet, indicating the direction of the field between
the N (north-seeking) and S (south-seeking) poles
4.1j Energy may be stored in electric* or magnetic fields. This energy may be transferred
through conductors or space and may be converted to other forms of energy.
4.1k Moving electric charges produce magnetic fields. The relative motion between a conductor
and a magnetic field may produce a potential difference in the conductor.
5.1 Students can explain and predict different patterns of motion of objects (e.g., linear and uniform
circular motion, velocity and acceleration, momentum and inertia).
5.1t Gravitational forces are only attractive, whereas electrical and magnetic forces can be
attractive or repulsive.

National Science Education Standards (1996) as published on

6.2 Table of Physical Science Standards, Level 9-12
• Structure and properties of matter.
• Interactions of energy and matter.
6.7 Table of History and Nature of Science Standards, Level 9-12
• Science as a human endeavor.
• Historical perspectives.

Misconception(s) Addressed:
• Magnetic fields behave the same as • Magnetic field lines start at one pole
electric fields and end at the other.
• North and south magnetic poles are the • Poles can be isolated.
same as positive and negative charges. • Flux is the same as field lines.
Becky McCoy

• Flux is actually the flow of the Earth.

magnetic field. • Charges, when released, will move
• Magnetic fields are the same as electric toward the poles of a magnet.
fields. • Generating electricity requires no work.
• Charges at rest can experience magnetic • When generating electricity only the
forces. magnet can move.
• Magnetic fields from magnets are not • Voltage can only be induced in a closed
caused by moving charges. circuit.
• Magnetic fields are not 3-dimensional. • Magnetic flux, rather than change of
• Magnetic field lines hold you on the magnetic flux, causes an induced emf.

Prior Knowledge: Electricity Unit and Lessons 1-6 of Magnetism Unit

Aim: Investigate the uses and science behind the MRI machine.

Concept Map Vocabulary: n/a

Necessary Preparation:
• MRI Articles
• MRI Lab Sheets

• Computer and projector
• Computers with PhET simulation loaded

• Have simulation loaded on computers already if possible
Becky McCoy

Lesson Plan

Aim: Investigate the uses and science behind the MRI machine.

Physics Push-Up: Free Write (5 minutes)

PART I: What do you think MRI stands for? What does it do? How might it connect to our unit on magnetism?
PART II: Using your knowledge from last class, predict how an MRI might be useful in spotting a tumor.

Activity: MRI Lab and Discovery

• MRI Articles
• MRI Lab Sheets
• Computer and projector
• Computers with PhET simulation loaded


PART I: DISCOVERY (45 Minutes)

Show 5 minute MRI Info video:

Give students articles on how an MRI machine works, useful articles about physics of MRI:

In lab pairs, students should take notes on how the MRI works and present their findings to the class. For this
reason, it might be most useful to find each pair/table a different article or aspect of MRI.

PART II: Lab (40 minutes)

Using PhET MRI Virtual Lab, have students complete the lab sheet in pairs (25-30 minutes):

Activity Summary: (5 minutes)

Give students an opportunity to review the day’s activities with their partner and then as a large group.

PART I: Survey & Lab Write Up (5 minutes)
Survey your family and friends to see who has had an MRI and what the experience was like for them.
Write up your findings from the MRI Lab in narrative form.
PART II: Final Unit Project (10 minutes)
• Final project – due first day of next unit. To be presented in class.
• Show students project guidelines and rubric.
Becky McCoy

Exit Strategy:
PART I: n/a
PART II: Hand in lab worksheet.

Extension Activity:
Give students and opportunity to brainstorm and begin research for their end of unit project.

• Student discussion and questions.
• Student narratives for homework.
• Final Unit Project.

MRI Info video:
Articles about physics of MRI:
PhET MRI Virtual Lab:

Notes & Adaptations:

Becky McCoy

Name ___________________________________________________ Class _________Date _______________

MRI Lab Sheet

• Follow the procedure listed below and make notes of your findings in your notebook.
• For homework, write your findings in narrative form.


☐ Find and run the PhET MRI Simulation:
☐ Click on the Simulated MRI tab.
☐ Write down a few initial observations of what you notice.
☐ What is the significance of the atomic nuclei and their movement?
☐ As you manipulate each of the following three variables, take notes on what changes within the
simulated MRI:
√ Increase the Field Strength (B) to 1.5 Tesla.
√ Increase the Power (P) to 25 Watts.
√ Increate the Frequency (f) to 75 /sec.
☐ What is happening? How is an image produced?
☐ What happens or changes if you decrease or increase the B, P, or f?
☐ Return the three variables to the original settings. Notice what happens as each changes:
√ P=0W
√ B = 0.5 T
√ f = 60 /sec

☐ Click the “Add Tumor” button in the bottom right hand corner – what does the tumor look like?
☐ Manipulate the variables to discover which combination will begin to detect an image. Which values
☐ How will the tumor be detected?
☐ What do the gradient magnets change?

☐ Describe how magnets can be used to detect a tumor.