Radioactive Isotopes and Ionizing Radiation

Course content

Radioactive and stable isotopes, radioactive decay and types of radiation. Natural and induced radioactivity. Absorption and scattering of radiation in matter. Energy deposition in biological tissue. External and internal dosimety, radiation protection. Basic radiobiology.  Equipment for detection of ionizing radiation. Planning of biological tracer experiments. Legislation and responsibilities for working with radioactivity in the laboratory.


BSc Programme in Physics
MSc Programme in Biochemistry
MSc Programme in Biotechnology 
MSc Programme in Physics

Learning outcome

After the course, the participants should be able to:

  • Retrieve, evaluate and explain the physical data on individual radionuclides, including their mode of decay, radiation types and -energy, and their natural distribution or man-made production.
  • Select appropriate detection- and recording equipment, and use conventional laboratory equipment for both qualitative and quantitative determination of ionizing radiation, both for analytical purposes, and for monitoring radiation and contamination levels.
  • Identify and explain relevant sources of stochastic and systematic error in relation to the detection of ionizing radiation with common laboratory equipment; plan and execute accurate and reproducible activity determinations in samples of biological material.
  • Evaluate methods and results on the application of radioactive tracers in biology and medicine; plan and execute tracer experiments.
  • Evaluate the radiation protection aspects of a laboratory procedure making use of radionuclides; plan and execute relevant preventive measures.
  • Instruct scientific and technical staff members in the isotope laboratory on correct and safe working procedures involving sources of ionizing radiation; monitor laboratory and working conditions to ensure safe handling.
  • Explain and evaluate the main natural and artificial sources of ionizing radiation, in relation to their contribution to overall radiation dose to members of the public or radiation workers.
  • Explain the mechanisms involved in the absorption of ionizing radiation in matter, including the mechanisms for energy deposition in biological tissues.
  • Explain the mechanisms of stochastic radiation hazards, and of deterministic radiation injury in the human body, especially with respect to dose dependency.
  • Explain and use basic dosimetric concepts and units; carry out procedures for radiation protection and the monitoring of radiation levels, based on the principles and guidelines of ICRP and national bodies.
  • Carry out simple dose estimations for external and internal radiation sources in relation to concrete laboratory procedures and occupational exposures.
  • Explain the most important biological processes at the cell and tissue level, that are responsible for radiation damage.

During the course the participants should:

  • Demonstrate an understanding of the practical aspects of working with open radioactive sources, incl. the safety measures to be taken.


The course provides:

  • A basic understanding of the phenomena of radioactivity and ionizing radiation, including the effect of the radiation on biological systems.
  • A practice-oriented familiarity with radiation physics, detection methods, measures of radiation protection, and the use of radioactively labelled compounds in biological and medical (primarily non-clinical) applications.


The course meets the authorization requirements of the Danish National Board of Health (see below).This course will provide the participants with the means to use radionuclides and ionizing radiation in a scientifically sound and safe manner as tools for biological and/or medical research or analysis.The participants should acquire competencies corresponding to the requirements of the Danish health authorities for persons to be legally responsible for the application of open radioactive sources, cf. current Danish statutes (Sundhedsstyrelsens bekendtgørelse nr. 954 af 23. oktober 2000).

Lectures, practical excercises and colloquia. E-learning is used as a supplement to the on-site instruction during the course.

See Absalon.

Academic qualifications equivalent to a BSc degree is recommended.

Authorisation: The course is approved by the Danish health authorities as providing the necessary theoretical and practical background for persons responsible for the work with open radioactive sources.

Supplemental information about the course can be found at http:/​/​​isotopkursus/​

7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Written examination, 3 hours under invigilation
Type of assessment details
Exam registration requirements

100 % participation in practical exercises.
Reports from the practical excercises must be approved.

All aids allowed
Marking scale
passed/not passed
Censorship form
External censorship

Oral exam, 30 minutes including deliberation, known questions.

If the requirement of approved reports is not fulfilled, revised reports must be handed in and approved prior to the reexamination.

If the requirement of participation in practical exercises is not fulfilled, the student must take the course again the next year.

Criteria for exam assessment

see learning outcome

Single subject courses (day)

  • Category
  • Hours
  • Lectures
  • 22
  • Preparation
  • 155
  • Theory exercises
  • 6
  • Practical exercises
  • 20
  • Exam
  • 3
  • English
  • 206


Course number
7,5 ECTS
Programme level
Full Degree Master

1 block

Block 3
The number of seats may be reduced in the late registration period
Study Board of Physics, Chemistry and Nanoscience
Contracting department
  • The Niels Bohr Institute
Contracting faculty
  • Faculty of Science
Course Coordinator
  • Jens Jørgen Gaardhøje   (8-696374666a716c674270646b306d7730666d)
Saved on the 28-02-2023

Are you BA- or KA-student?

Are you bachelor- or kandidat-student, then find the course in the course catalog for students:

Courseinformation of students