PHY3052 Nuclear and High Energy Physics 2024-25
Prof. E. Hendry
Delivery Weeks: T2:01-11
Level: 6 (NQF)
Credits: 15 NICATS / 7.5 ECTS
Enrolment: 118 students (approx)


This module is an introduction to nuclear and particle physics delivered as a series of lectures and integrated self-study packs presenting topics as a series of keynote areas forming the foundations of the subject. This is a core module for all Physics programmes and is supported by Stage 3 tutorials and problems classes.

Module Aims

Investigations of the atomic nucleus and, of the fundamental forces that determine nuclear structure, offer fascinating insights into the nature of the physical world. The tools for probing these systems are high-energy particle accelerators and, more recently, colliding-beam systems. This module, aims to give students a broad overview of the subject matter, and encouragement to seek further information.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

A student who has passed this module should be able to:

Syllabus Plan

  1. Nuclear structure
    Nuclear forces; liquid-drop model; Segrè curve and interpretation. Shell model; evidence for 'magic' numbers;
  2. Nuclear spin (SS1)
    Conservation of spin and parity in nuclear decays. Nuclear spin resonance and magnetic resonance imaging.
  3. Instability and modes of decay
    α-decay, simple version of tunnelling theory; β-decay, neutrino theory, summary of Fermi theory; Kurie plot. γ-decay; nuclear decay schemes.
  4. Beta decay theory (SS2)
    Fermi theory of beta decay. Selection rules. Breaking of parity conservation in beta decay.
  5. Nuclear reactions
    Energetics; Q-values; reaction thresholds. Compound nucleus model, partial widths. Resonance reactions; Breit-Wigner formula. Fission and Fusion.
  6. The neutrino (SS3)
    Neutrino mixing angles and oscillation lengths. Neutrino masses. Dirac vs Majorana neutrinos
  7. Introduction to particle physics
    Leptons, nucleons, hadrons, quarks and baryons. Symmetries and groups.
  8. QED
    Relativistic quantum theory of electromagnetic interactions; antiparticles, electrodynamics of spinless particles, Dirac equation, electrodynamics of spin-1/2 particles.
  9. The Casimir force and QED (SS4)
    Origin of the Casimir force. Zero point energy. High order corrections to interaction strengths in QED. Calculating interactions strengths in QED. Extensions to strong and weak forces.
  10. Partons
    Structure of hadrons, gluons.
  11. QCD
    Relativistic quantum theory of the strong interactions of quarks and gluons.
  12. Symmetry in the Standard Model (SS5)
    Local symmetry in the Standard Model. Discrete symmetry: parity, charge conjugation and time reversal, CPT theorem. CP violation in the weak and strong forces.
  13. Weak-interactions
    General structure, non-conservation of parity, massive neutrinos, neutrino experiments. Inverse β-decay. Two-neutrino experiment. CP violation in β-decay.
  14. Gauge symmetries
    Gauge bosons

Learning and Teaching

Learning Activities and Teaching Methods

Description Study time KIS type
20×1-hour lectures 20 hours SLT
2×1-hour problems/revision classes 2 hours SLT
3×1-hour tutorials 3 hours SLT
5×6-hour self-study packages 30 hours GIS
4×4-hour problem sets 16 hours GIS
Reading, private study and revision 79 hours GIS


Weight Form Size When ILOS assessed Feedback
0% Guided self-study 5×6-hour packages Fortnightly 1-12 Discussion in tutorials
0% 4 × Problems sets 4 hours per set Fortnightly 1-12 Solutions discussed in problems classes.
100% Final Examination 2 hours 30 minutes May/June 1-12 Mark via MyExeter, collective feedback via ELE and solutions.


The following list is offered as an indication of the type & level of information that students are expected to consult. Further guidance will be provided by the Module Instructor(s).

Core text:

Supplementary texts:


Further Information

Prior Knowledge Requirements

Pre-requisite Modules Quantum Mechanics I (PHY2022)
Co-requisite Modules none


Re-assessment is not available except when required by referral or deferral.

Original form of assessment Form of re-assessment ILOs re-assessed Time scale for re-assessment
Whole module Written examination (100%) 1-12 August/September assessment period

Notes: See Physics Assessment Conventions.

KIS Data Summary

Learning activities and teaching methods
SLT - scheduled learning & teaching activities 25 hrs
GIS - guided independent study 125 hrs
PLS - placement/study abroad 0 hrs
Total 150 hrs
Summative assessment
Coursework 0%
Written exams 100%
Practical exams 0%
Total 100%


IoP Accreditation Checklist
  • QM-10 Nuclear masses and binding energies
  • QM-11 Radioactive decay, fission and fusion
  • QM-12 Pauli exclusion principle, fermions and bosons and elementary particles
  • QM-13 Fundamental forces and the Standard Model
Availability unrestricted
Distance learning NO
Keywords Physics; Particle; Decays; Structures; Theory; Model; Quarks; Neutrino; Interaction; Energy; Conservative.
Created 01-Oct-10
Revised N/A