Introduction to Nuclear and Particle Physics

Course content

The purpose of this course is to introduce the physics of the strong and electroweak interactions. These fundamental forces describe nature's smallest components: elementary particles and atomic nuclei.

The course will cover the theoretical and experimental advances which have led to the current understanding of physics at the subatomic scale. The course will outline the currently open questions in subatomic physics and may also address selected topics of current interest.


More specifically, the course will cover the following topics:

  • Symmetries and conservation laws in nuclear and particle physics.
  • Relativistic kinematics and applications in high-energy reactions.
  • The Standard Model theory: fundamental matter particles and their interactions by strong and electroweak forces.
  • The Higgs and the origin of mass.
  • Neutrino oscillations and masses.
  • Ultra-relativistic nucleus collisions, quark-gluon plasma in the early universe and in the laboratory.
  • Nuclear models (liquid drop, shell and collective model).
  • The nucleon-nucleon interaction.
  • Models of alpha, beta and gamma decay, fission.
  • Nuclear astrophysics, primordial and stellar nucleosynthesis.


    The course forms the basis for future studies or projects in particle physics or nuclear physics.


BSc Programme in Physics

Learning outcome

At the end of the course the student is expected to be able to:


  • Determine which nuclear and particle processes are allowed by conservation laws.
  • Calculate the outcome of high-energy collisions with relativistic kinematics.
  • Estimate the rates and cross sections of particle physics processes, e.g. beta decay or neutrino scattering, with the concept of Feynman diagrams.



  • Recall the basics of the Standard Model theory for particle physics and basic models describing atomic nuclei.
  • Give an account of nuclear and particle phenomenology in terms of subatomic particles and interactions and demonstrate understanding of relevant energy scales and quantum numbers.
  • Describe atomic nuclei as a quantum-mechanical many-body system bound by an effective strong interaction.
  • Describe properties of nuclear reactions and radioactivity in terms of effective models (alpha, beta, and gamma decays).
  • Describe experimental methods of nuclear and particle physics.
  • Recall essential experimental results which have led to the formulation of the Standard Model.
  • Relate length and time scales, relevant for particle interactions and decays, to characteristic mass scales of nuclear and particle physics.



  • Apply basic knowledge of e.g. quantum mechanics and special relativity, gained in previous courses, to describe subatomic phenomena.
  • Explain the important properties of elementary particles and their interactions in the Standard Model of particle physics.
  • Explain nuclear excitations and decays in terms of nuclear models.
  • Estimate decay rates and characteristics of fusion and fission reactions.
  • Formulate the basic elements of calculations of cross sections and decay rates in particle physics.
  • Explain how nuclear and particle physics phenomena contribute to the evolution of the universe, from the Big Bang to present day processes in stars.

Lectures and exercises

For final course literature see Absalon.

The following is an example of suggested course literature:

B.R. Martin. Nuclear and particle physics. Wiley, 2nd ed. 

Good level of Classical mechanics, Electromagnetism, Quantum Mechanics, Special Relativity (corresponding to the mandatory courses of the physics B.Sc.).

Continuous feedback during the course of the semester
7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Continuous assessment
The exam consists of two parts:
1) two take-home exams during the course
2) continuous exercises and quizzes

Each student has a choice between two levels of problem sets for take-home exams and exercises:
• standard problem sets with detailed questions and hints
• advanced problem sets with open questions

The grade combines the grade from take-home exercises (35% each) and the combined grade from continuous exercises and quizzes (30% total).
Each part of the exam has to be passed separately in order to pass the course.
All aids allowed
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
No external censorship
Several internal examiners
Criteria for exam assessment

See "Learning Outcome".

Single subject courses (day)

  • Category
  • Hours
  • Lectures
  • 40
  • Exercises
  • 48
  • Preparation
  • 54
  • Exam
  • 64
  • English
  • 206