Nuclear and Particle Physics - PHYS6660

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Module delivery information

Location Term Level1 Credits (ECTS)2 Current Convenor3 2024 to 2025
Autumn Term 6 15 (7.5) Michael Hughes checkmark-circle


This module will introduce students to basic concepts in nuclear and particle physics, and will provide an understanding of how the principles of quantum mechanics are used to describe matter at sub-atomic length scales. The following concepts will be covered:
* Properties of nuclei: Rutherford scattering. Size, mass and binding energy, stability, spin and parity.
* Nuclear Forces: properties of the deuteron, magnetic dipole moment, spin-dependent forces.
* Nuclear Models: Semi-empirical mass formula M(A, Z), stability, binding energy B(A, Z)/A. Shell model, magic numbers, spin-orbit interaction, shell closure effects.
* Alpha and Beta decay: Energetics and stability, the positron, neutrino and anti-neutrino.
* Nuclear Reactions: Q-value. Fission and fusion reactions, chain reactions and nuclear reactors, nuclear weapons, solar energy and the helium cycle.
* Experimental methods in Nuclear and Particle Physics (Accelerators, detectors, analysis methods, case studies will be given).
* Discovery of elementary particles and the standard model of particles
* Leptons, quarks and vector bosons
* The concept of four different forces and fields in classical and quantum physics; mediation of forces via virtual particles, Feynman Diagrams
* Relativistic Kinematics
* Relativistic Quantum Mechanics and Prediction of Antiparticles
* Symmetries and Conservation Laws
* Hadron flavours, isospin, strangeness and the quark model
* Weak Interactions, W and Z bosons


Contact hours

Total Contact Hours: 30
Total Private Study Hours: 120
Total Study Hours: 150

Method of assessment

• Take-home Assignment 1 (5 hours) – 15%
• Take-home Assignment 2 (5 hours) – 15%
• Examination (2 hours) – 70%

Indicative reading

Brehm, J.J, (1989). Introduction to the Structure of Matter: A Course in Modern Physics, New York: Wiley.
Griffiths, D.J. (2008). Introduction to Elementary Particles. New York: Wiley
Krane, K.S. (1988). Introductory Nuclear Physics. New York: Wiley
Lilley, J. (2001). Nuclear Physics Principles and Applications, New York: Wiley.
Martin, B.R. (2009). Nuclear and Particle Physics. New York: Wiley
Thomson, M. (2013). Modern Particle Physics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

Learning outcomes

1 Demonstrate extensive knowledge and understanding of physical laws and principles in Nuclear and Particle Physics, and their application to diverse areas of physics.
2 Demonstrate the ability to identify relevant principles and laws when dealing with problems in Nuclear and Particle Physics, and to make approximations necessary to obtain solutions.
3 Demonstrate the ability to solve problems in Nuclear and Particle Physics using appropriate mathematical tools and the formalism of quantum mechanics.
4 Demonstrate the ability to use mathematical techniques and analysis to model physical behaviour in Nuclear and Particle Physics.
5 Demonstrate familiarity with how particle physics experiments work.
6 Discuss particle physics in the language of particles and fields.
7 Present and interpret information graphically.
8 Make use of appropriate physics-based texts, research-based materials or other learning resources as part of managing their own learning.


  1. Credit level 6. Higher level module usually taken in Stage 3 of an undergraduate degree.
  2. ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
  3. The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
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