Module code: PHY2067

Module Overview

The general properties of nuclei and radioactivity are studied, with an introduction to the deeper structure of elementary particles and the Standard Model. The nuclear physics includes alpha- and beta- and gamma-ray decay, nuclear fission and models of nuclear structure. The high energy physics includes the quark structure of hadrons, CPT conservation and CP violation and the impact of conservation rules on simple reactions of elementary particles.

Module provider

Mathematics & Physics

Module Leader

CATFORD Wilton (Maths & Phys)

Number of Credits: 15

ECTS Credits: 7.5

Framework: FHEQ Level 5

Module cap (Maximum number of students): N/A

Overall student workload

Workshop Hours: 1

Independent Learning Hours: 52

Lecture Hours: 22

Tutorial Hours: 11

Laboratory Hours: 18

Guided Learning: 24

Captured Content: 22

Module Availability

Semester 2

Prerequisites / Co-requisites


Module content

Indicative content includes:

Lecture Course:

Eleven weeks, generally comprising  of lectures and an examples class.

  • 1. Basic Properties of Nuclei

  • Introduction, notation, review of angular momentum and potential wells in 3D in quantum mechanics, nuclear binding energy, semi-empirical mass formula.

  • 2. Radioactive Decay

  • Exponential decay law, isotope production, secular and transient equilibrium, forms of radioactivity.

  • 3. Alpha and Gamma Decay

  • Energetics of alpha-particle decay, barrier penetration model, Geiger-Nuttall rule, gamma-ray production and multipolarities, Weisskopf estimates, role of angular momentum and parity.

  • 4. Beta Decay and Electron Capture

  • Q-values for beta decay, Fermi theory, Fermi and Gamow-Teller decays, role of angular momentum and parity, electron capture, selection rules.

  • 5. Nuclear Models

  • Nuclear mean field, shell model, spin-orbit splitting, shell model configurations for nuclear ground states, configurations and spins for low-lying excited levels.

  • 6. Nuclear Reactions

  • Types of nuclear reaction, centre of mass frame, Q-values and threshold energies, compound nuclear reactions, resonance reactions.

  • 7. Fission and Reactors

  • Fission barriers, physics of fission, energy release and partitioning in fission, neutron induced fission, chain reaction, nuclear reactors, four-factor formula and extensions for losses.

  • 8. Quark Structure of Nucleons and Mesons

  • Pions as carriers of the nuclear force, pion properties, conservation rules in particle decay, isospin, parity, CPT conservation, time reversal invariance, kaons, strangeness, quark basis for meson structure, CP violation in K0 decay.

  • 9. Bosons, Leptons and Quarks

  • Z0 and W± properties, field particles, lepton families, conservation rules (energy, angular momentum, parity, baryon number, lepton number, isospin, strangeness and charm), quark model of mesons and baryons, multiplets using three generations of quarks, extension to include charm.

  • 10. The Standard Model and Beyond

  • Particle decays in the quark model, J/psi decays, Weinberg angle, neutrino mass and flavour oscillations, search for the Higgs, particle physics effects in shaping in the early universe.

  • 11. Review and Key Points

  • Summary of the whole course with comments, perspectives and examples of key concepts and points, numerical examples.

Experimental Laboratory:

  • Laboratory experiments which take place in the radiation laboratory. Two two-week experiments and a one-week experiment. Experiments are designed to study the properties of various kinds of radiation and the methods for detecting them, including the spectroscopy (energy measurement) and absorption properties of alpha-, beta-, gamma, positron and x-radiation and neutrons

  • An Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Awareness workshop.

Assessment pattern

Assessment type Unit of assessment Weighting
Online Scheduled Summative Class Test ONLINE (OPEN BOOK) TEST WITHIN 4HR WINDOW 10
Practical based assessment EDI Awareness Engagement Pass/Fail

Alternative Assessment

The laboratory Diary and Report/Presentation Mark may be assessed by a condensed programme of laboratory work, with written laboratory report/presentation.

Assessment Strategy

The assessment strategy is designed to provide students with the opportunity to demonstrate

  • recall of subject knowledge

  • ability to apply subject knowledge to unseen problems

  • ability to conduct laboratory experiments

  • communication of scientific ideas


For the physics lecture and laboratory components, the summative assessment for this module consists of:

  • marking the laboratory diary

  • a laboratory report and/or presentation mark


  • An examination of 2 hr with a compulsory section with shorter questions and a second section of longer questions with 2 questions to be attempted from 3

The Laboratory unit of assessment has a qualifying mark of 40%.

The assessment of engagement with the EDI Awareness Workshop will be by an open book quiz with unlimited re-attempts, but it must be passed in order to pass the module.

Formative assessment and feedback

Verbal feedback is given in the weekly tutorial sessions.  The mid-semester test has feedback included, according to the student answers, and is discussed in class. Written feedback is given through the laboratory presentation, report and diary marking.


Module aims

  • give a basic understanding of why some nuclei are stable and others are radioactive and why they decay in the ways that they do.
  • introduce the concept of parity and how this quantum number, along with conservation of angular momentum, affects what physical processes will occur at the subatomic level.
  • give a general understanding of the different families of elementary particles believed to exist according to the Standard Model and how the quarks combine to form mesons and baryons.
  • introduce the effects of conservation rules (CPT, lepton number, baryon number, strangeness and charm¿) on the interactions and reactions of elementary particles.
  • explain how to apply the understanding of nuclear and subnuclear processes to the solution of simple numerical problems and other problems related to nuclear and elementary particle reactions and decays.

Learning outcomes

Attributes Developed
001 To understand the trends in binding energy of nuclei across the nuclear chart and to be able to calculate energies of particles emitted in nuclear decay processes. Calculate nuclear reaction Q-values and related quantities C
002 Calculate and make deductions about rates of decay for combined radioactivities and predict which decay processes can be expected to dominate for particular nuclei and states C
003 Predict the spins and parities of ground states and low-lying excited states in simple nuclei C
004 Describe the basic processes determining the operation of nuclear fission reactors K
005 Identify the families of elementary particles according to the Standard Model and describe fundamental interactions in terms of boson exchange. Describe the quark structure of mesons and hadrons K
006 Predict the products of elementary particle reactions by the application of conservation principles and evaluate the impact of elementary particle interactions on the early evolution of the Universe. C
007 Recognise benefits of equality, diversity and inclusion and identify causes and effects of unconscious bias T

Attributes Developed

C - Cognitive/analytical

K - Subject knowledge

T - Transferable skills

P - Professional/Practical skills

Methods of Teaching / Learning

The learning and teaching strategy is designed to:

  • equip students with subject knowledge

  • develop skills in applying subject knowledge to physical situations

  • develop laboratory practical skills

  • develop scientific writing skills


The learning and teaching methods include:

  • Lectures and tutorials 

  • Laboratory work 

Indicated Lecture Hours (which may also include seminars, tutorials, workshops and other contact time) are approximate and may include in-class tests where one or more of these are an assessment on the module. In-class tests are scheduled/organised separately to taught content and will be published on to student personal timetables, where they apply to taken modules, as soon as they are finalised by central administration. This will usually be after the initial publication of the teaching timetable for the relevant semester.

Reading list
Upon accessing the reading list, please search for the module using the module code: PHY2067

Other information

The School of Mathematics and Physics is committed to developing graduates with strengths in Employability, Digital Capabilities, Global and Cultural Capabilities, Sustainability, and Resourcefulness and Resilience. This module is designed to allow students to develop knowledge, skills, and capabilities in the following areas:

Resourcefulness and Resilience Students demonstrate problem solving, both individually and working in groups, during the experimental laboratories that accompany the module and in the class tutorial sessions. Students are encouraged to approach the challenges of the module with inventive solutions, fostering a mindset that values analytical thinking, innovation, and adaptability

Global and Cultural Capabilities The module includes an Equality, Diversity and Inclusivity (EDI) workshop which aims to increase awareness of cultural, religious, or racial differences while delivering information about how a person can change their behaviour to be more inclusive. Through this training, students are encouraged to diversify their knowledge and reflect upon their experiences as a physicist and in education.   

Programmes this module appears in

Programme Semester Classification Qualifying conditions
Physics BSc (Hons) 2 Compulsory A weighted aggregate mark of 40% is required to pass the module
Physics with Astronomy BSc (Hons) 2 Compulsory A weighted aggregate mark of 40% is required to pass the module
Physics with Nuclear Astrophysics BSc (Hons) 2 Compulsory A weighted aggregate mark of 40% is required to pass the module
Physics with Nuclear Astrophysics MPhys 2 Compulsory A weighted aggregate mark of 40% is required to pass the module
Physics with Astronomy MPhys 2 Compulsory A weighted aggregate mark of 40% is required to pass the module
Physics MPhys 2 Compulsory A weighted aggregate mark of 40% is required to pass the module
Physics with Quantum Computing MPhys 2 Compulsory A weighted aggregate mark of 40% is required to pass the module
Mathematics and Physics BSc (Hons) 2 Compulsory A weighted aggregate mark of 40% is required to pass the module
Mathematics and Physics MPhys 2 Compulsory A weighted aggregate mark of 40% is required to pass the module
Mathematics and Physics MMath 2 Compulsory A weighted aggregate mark of 40% is required to pass the module

Please note that the information detailed within this record is accurate at the time of publishing and may be subject to change. This record contains information for the most up to date version of the programme / module for the 2025/6 academic year.