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MPhys Physics with Astrophysics / Course details

Year of entry: 2021

Course unit details:
Nuclear Physics

Unit code PHYS40322
Credit rating 10
Unit level Level 4
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Offered by Department of Physics & Astronomy
Available as a free choice unit? No


Nuclear Physics


Unit title Unit code Requirement type Description
Applications of Quantum Physics PHYS30101 Pre-Requisite Recommended
Introduction to Nuclear and Particle Physics PHYS30121 Pre-Requisite Recommended
Mathematical Fundamentals of Quantum Mechanics PHYS30201 Pre-Requisite Recommended

Follow - Up Units

PHYS40421 - Nuclear Structure and Exotic Nuclei


To provide a basic knowledge of the physics of atomic nuclei, models of the structure of the nucleus and basic mechanisms of radioactive decay and nuclear reactions.

Learning outcomes

This course unit detail provides the framework for delivery in 20/21 and may be subject to change due to any additional Covid-19 impact.  Please see Blackboard / course unit related emails for any further updates

On completion successful students should be able to:

1. Describe and explain the various methods used to determine nuclear shapes and sizes
2. Evaluate Electromagnetic moments in nuclei
3. Describe, explain and categorise the mechanisms behind nuclear decay processes
4. Evaluate the transition rates for nuclear decay processes
5. Describe, categorise and explain the basic properties of excited nuclear states using simple


1.  Basic Concepts in Nuclear Physics:

Brief resumé

2.  Sizes and Shapes of Nuclei:

Measurements of nuclear mass and charge radii:  electron scattering, muonic atoms.  Electromagnetic moments: hyperfine structure.  Nuclear deformation.

3.  Mechanisms of Nuclear Decay:

α decay:  Barrier penetration, Geiger-Nuttall systematics, relationship to proton/ heavy-fragment emission.

β decay:  Fermi theory, selection rules.

γ decay of excited states:  multipolarity, selection rules and decay probabilities.

4.  Excited States of Nuclei:

Description of the properties of excited states using the nuclear shell model. Collective behaviour:  rotational and vibrational states.

5.  Nuclear Reactions:

Cross section.  Simple features of nuclear reactions.  Direct and compound-nuclear mechanisms.  Fusion and fission.

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Written exam 100%

Feedback methods

Feedback will be offered by examples class tutors based on examples sheets, and model answers will be issued.

Recommended reading


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


Supplementary reading:

Hodgson, P.E., Gadioli, E. & Gadioli Erba, E. Introductory Nuclear Physics, (OUP)

Martin, B.R. Nuclear and Particle Physics; an Introduction (Wiley)

Bertulani, C. Nuclear Physics in a Nutshell (Princeton University Press)

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Assessment written exam 1.5
Lectures 24
Independent study hours
Independent study 74.5

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
David Cullen Unit coordinator

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