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Unit information: Introduction to Nuclear Physics in 2020/21

Unit name Introduction to Nuclear Physics
Unit code PHYSM0039
Credit points 10
Level of study M/7
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1A (weeks 1 - 6)
Unit director Dr. Heath
Open unit status Not open




School/department School of Physics
Faculty Faculty of Science


This course will give students who have not completed an undergraduate Physics degree an introduction to the fundamentals of 20th century physics needed for graduate study in the area of nuclear science.

Intended learning outcomes

Students will be able to

1) Describe the constituents of subatomic particles, including nucleons and the interactions that they underfo

2) Use the relativistic energy momentum relationship, and the principles of conservation of momentum and energy, to perform caculations of the kinematics in nuclear collisions and understand the conditions under which non-relativisitc expressions may be applied.

3) Calculate mass defects and binding energies in nuclei from experimental data, make predictions of these quantities using the Semi-Empircal mass formula and described the principles behind the formula and the problems with it. Describe how Binding energy affects the stability of nuclei.

4) Understand the relationships between decay constants, lifetimes and activity and perform calculations using these quantities and describe transformations that take place in the main types of radioactive decay including quantum tunnelling.

5) Describe cross-sections and a differential cross-sections and link them to luminosity. Understand that subatomic collisions are governed by quantum mechanics and calculate collision probabilities.

6) Understand that the shell model of the nucleus can explain the magic numbers if spin-orbit coupling is included. State the meaning of the labels of nuclear levels and be able to calculate the number of nucleons in a level with given quantum numbers.

7) Outline the various stages of nucleosynthesis in the Universe and describe how the processes involved and the stability of different nuclei explain the observed distribution of the chemical elements.

Teaching details

The unit will be taught through a combination of

  • asynchronous online materials, including narrated presentations and worked examples
  • synchronous group problems classes, workshops, tutorials and/or office hours
  • asynchronous directed individual formative exercises and other exercises
  • guided, structured reading

Assessment Details

Formative assessment – online tests, workshop exercises.Summative assessment – five online timed tests (20% each)

Reading and References

K. J. Krane, Introductory Nuclear Physics, (Wiley),

W. E. Burcham, Elements of Nuclear Physics, (Longman)