Introduction to Nuclear and Particle Physics

Course content

The intent of this course is to introduce students to the beautiful tapestry of modern subatomic physics.   Introduction to Nuclear and Particle physics should be considered Hors D’oeuvres for more advanced work in subatomic physics.

The purpose of this course is to provide an introduction and overview of the physics of strong and electroweak interactions and their experimental foundation. These fundamental forces underlie the rich phenomenology of Nature's smallest components: elementary particles and atomic nuclei. The course will outline the theoretical and experimental advances which have led to the current understanding of physics at the subatomic scale. These topics will be covered at a mathematical level appropriate for undergraduates students of physics. The focus will be more on the understanding of phenomena rather than their rigorous mathematical description. The course will touch upon selected topics of current interest.

More specifically, the course will introduce 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 mechanism and the origin of mass.
  • Neutrino oscillations and masses.
  • Effective nucleon-nucleon interactions and models of nuclear physics.
  • Alpha, beta and gamma decay and fission.
  • Form factors and structure functions.
  • Nuclear astrophysics, primordial and stellar nucleosynthesis.
  • Ultra-relativistic nucleus collisions, quark-gluon plasma in the early universe and in the laboratory.


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.
  • Apply relativistic kinematics to the study of high energy collisions.
  • Estimate decay rates and cross sections of particle physics processes, e.g. beta decay or neutrino scattering, with the concept of Feynman diagrams.
  • Relate length and time scales, relevant for subatomic interactions and decays, to characteristic mass scales of nuclear and particle physics.
  • Summarize and discuss scientific articles with peers.



  • Explain the properties of fundamental particles and their interactions summarized in the Standard Model of particle physics.
  • Give an account of  nuclear models as a quantum-mechanical many-body system in an effective potential.
  • Describe and evaluate properties of nuclear reactions and radioactivity.
  • Describe experimental methods of nuclear and particle physics.
  • Summarize key experimental results that have led to our present subatomic models.
  • Demonstrate familiarity with applications of subatomic physics.
  • Describe subatomic processes and conditions relevant for nuclear astrophysics and nucleosynthesis.



  • Apply prior knowledge of quantum mechanics and special relativity to describe subatomic phenomena.
  • Apply prior knowledge of statistics and experimental uncertainties to experimental subatomic physics data.
  • Relate nuclear and particle phenomenology to subatomic particles and interactions and demonstrate understanding of relevant energy scales and quantum numbers.
  • Evaluate the validity of subatomic models.
  • Formulate the basic elements of calculations of cross sections and decay rates in subatomic physics.
  • Relate concepts of subatomic physics to selected modern applications.
  • 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, discussions, 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, 3rd 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

There will be weekly office hours, where students are welcome to discuss their performance in the course.

General oral feedback will be given during discussion and exercise sessions.

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

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
  • Preparation
  • 54
  • Exercises
  • 48
  • Exam
  • 64
  • English
  • 206


Course number
7,5 ECTS
Programme level

1 block

Block 2
no limit
Study Board of Physics, Chemistry and Nanoscience
Contracting department
  • The Niels Bohr Institute
Contracting faculty
  • Faculty of Science
Course Coordinator
  • Jørgen Beck Hansen   (4-6669676f4472666d326f7932686f)

Jørgen Beck Hansen
Ian Bearden
Markus Tobias Ahlers

Saved on the 29-04-2021

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