Module code: PHYM032

Module Overview

Lectures provide a detailed and systematic overview of atomic and nuclear physics including basic energetics of radioactive decay. An introduction on interactions of radiation with matter and introductory material describing detector operation.

Module provider

Mathematics & Physics

Module Leader

PODOLYAK Zsolt (Maths & Phys)

Number of Credits: 15

ECTS Credits: 7.5

Framework: FHEQ Level 7

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

Overall student workload

Independent Learning Hours: 95

Lecture Hours: 28

Tutorial Hours: 5

Guided Learning: 10

Captured Content: 12

Module Availability

Semester 1

Prerequisites / Co-requisites


Module content



Lecture Hours

Prof PH Regan

Atomic physics: Bohr model, Pauli Exclusion Principle, de Broglie hypothesis, Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, electronic structure of atom, x-ray spectra; Moseley’s law, x-ray fluorescence and x-ray fluorescence yield, Auger electrons. Experimental evidence for nuclear sizes;

Outline of Rutherford scattering, nuclear excited state energy and mass systematics, nuclear binding energy. Systematic study of nuclear binding energy: Von Weizsäcker Semi-Empirical Mass Formula and Liquid Drop Model, beta decay, energy released during fission of heavy nuclei; Basic phenomena behing the nuclear Shell Model, Woods-Saxon potentials, nuclear spin-orbit interaction,.

Introduction to theory of alpha and beta decay; Geiger-Nuttall Law, electron capture. Gamma emissions. Fission. Radioactive decay through a chain. Production of radionuclides.


Dr Z Podolyak

Interactions of radiation with matter, photons, neutrons and charged particles. Attenuation coefficients and the Mixture Rule. Concept of neutron flux and cross-section; the neutron spectrum.  The interaction of electrons (and other charged particles) with matter; elastic and inelastic processes, bremsstrahlung and radiative yield, energy dependence.  Measurement of radioactivity and standards.

Introduction to radiation detectors, describing the basic function and operation of semiconductor, scintillator and gas detectors, counting statistics, dead time and energy resolution.





Assessment pattern

Assessment type Unit of assessment Weighting
School-timetabled exam/test CLASS TEST (1 hour) 30
Examination EXAM (2 hours) 70

Alternative Assessment


Assessment Strategy

The assessment strategy is designed to provide students with the opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge of concepts behind Radiation Physics.

Thus, the summative assessment for this module consists of:

  • A multiple-choice class test. The class test will take one hour and will consist of 10 questions. This will make up 30% of the final module mark.

  • A 2.0 hours duration examination paper that consists of 5 questions on Radiation Physics. Students will be asked to answer 3 questions from the 5. Full marks in the examination will be equivalent to 70 % of the total marks available in assessment of this module.

Formative assessment and feedback

Students will receive feedback on their performance in the take home written coursework test, each test being marked.


Module aims

  • To provide the student with a detailed understanding of the structure of matter, radioactivity and different types of ionizing radiation.
  • To provide the student with the comprehensive understanding of basic phenomena in atomic and nuclear physics including atomic and nuclear structure, decay mechanisms, electromagnetic quanta, characteristic and continuous X-ray sources. To provide an understanding of radiation counting, nuclear and atomic spectroscopy equipment.

Learning outcomes

Attributes Developed
001 Systematic understanding of the fundamental processes involved with the interaction of X- and gamma-ray photons, charged particles and neutrons with matter KC
002 Students be able to perform basic radiation shielding calculations and be aware of stopper power and attenuation data bases in the literature KCP
003 Perform investigations of radiation sources and their interactions in media KCPT

Attributes Developed

C - Cognitive/analytical

K - Subject knowledge

T - Transferable skills

P - Professional/Practical skills

Methods of Teaching / Learning

Formal lectures and occasional large group tutorial/question sessions. Teaching given by handouts, data projector and white board presentations and notes.

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: PHYM032

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:

Employability: The module introduces learners to experimental techniques used by professional scientists in both industry and academia.  The students learn the relevant health and safety and technical aspects of radiation. The module, therefore, also represents an opportunity to practise and develop problem solving skills

Resourcefulness: The students will develop a problem solving mindset as they solve questions related to radiation protection.

Sustainability: Modern technology has the capability to produce energy without emitting CO2 and other gases heating the Earth. The physics of nuclear energy is part of this module.

Programmes this module appears in

Programme Semester Classification Qualifying conditions
Nuclear Science and Applications MSc 1 Compulsory A weighted aggregate mark of 50% is required to pass the module
Medical Physics MSc 1 Compulsory A weighted aggregate mark of 50% is required to pass the module
Nuclear Science and Radiation Protection MSc 1 Compulsory A weighted aggregate mark of 50% is required to pass the module
Physics MSc 1 Optional A weighted aggregate mark of 50% 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.