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Session: 2022/23

Last modified: 10/01/2023 11:25:45

Title of Module: Atoms & Nuclei

Code: PHYS09011 SCQF Level: 9
(Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework)
Credit Points: 20 ECTS: 10
(European Credit Transfer Scheme)
School:School of Computing, Engineering and Physical Sciences
Module Co-ordinator:David  O'Donnell

Summary of Module

This module is a one of four SCQF Level-9 core components of the B.Sc. programmes in Physics and Physics with Nuclear Technology. The module is normally taken in Year-3 of the degree programmes. The module covers intermediate-level aspects of atomic and nuclear physics, which were introduced at Levels 7 and 8 and which continue through to Level 10 and postgraduate level. The provision is equally shared between atomic and nuclear physics. The content of the module is primarily delivered by lecture with the material reinforced in practical laboratory classes. Part of the practical element of the module will be the presentation of a formal laboratory report. Assessment is by examination (60%) and coursework (40%). The 40% of the coursework mark is derived from two components: a homework part (worth 20%) and the laboratory work (worth 20%). The module will be supported by material on the Moodle VLE internet resource. A brief outline of the module syllabus is given below.

Atomic physics:

Atomic structure of the hydrogen atom; quantization of angular momentum; quantum numbers and notation; degeneracy; separation of variables; electron probability distributions; time-independent perturbation theory; electron spin; spin-orbit coupling; many electron atoms.

Nuclear physics:

The Birth of nuclear physics, Rutherford's experiment; basic nuclear properties, nuclear composition (isotopes), nuclear radius, mass, spin; mass defect and nuclear binding (Bethe Weiszaecker formula); introduction of nuclear models (Shell Model); radioactive decay modes, alpha,beta and gamma decay; fusion and fission, nuclear energy and a brief introduction to nuclear reactions and detection techniques.


  • We have defined a set of Graduate Attributes that are the skills, personal qualities and understanding to be developed through your university experience that will prepare for life and work in the 21st century ( The Graduate Attributes relevant to this module are listed below.

  • Graduate Attributes - Academic: critical thinker; analytical; inquiring; knowledgeable; digitally literate; problem solver; autonomous; incisive; innovative.

  • Graduate Attributes - Personal: effective communicator; influential; motivated.

  • Graduate Attributes - Professional: collaborative; research-minded; enterprising; ambitious; driven.

Module Delivery Method
Face-To-FaceBlendedFully OnlineHybridCHybridOWork-based Learning

Term used to describe the traditional classroom environment where the students and the lecturer meet synchronously in the same room for the whole provision.

A mode of delivery of a module or a programme that involves online and face-to-face delivery of learning, teaching and assessment activities, student support and feedback. A programme may be considered “blended” if it includes a combination of face-to-face, online and blended modules. If an online programme has any compulsory face-to-face and campus elements it must be described as blended with clearly articulated delivery information to manage student expectations

Fully Online
Instruction that is solely delivered by web-based or internet-based technologies. This term is used to describe the previously used terms distance learning and e learning.

Online with mandatory face-to-face learning on Campus

Online with optional face-to-face learning on Campus

Work-based Learning
Learning activities where the main location for the learning experience is in the workplace.

Campus(es) for Module Delivery
The module will normally be offered on the following campuses / or by Distance/Online Learning: (Provided viable student numbers permit)
Paisley:Ayr:Dumfries:Lanarkshire:London:Distance/Online Learning:Other:
check mark







Term(s) for Module Delivery
(Provided viable student numbers permit).
Term 1


Term 2check markTerm 3


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Learning Outcomes: (maximum of 5 statements)

On successful completion of this module the student will be able to:

L1. To demonstrate knowledge and understanding of atomic and nuclear physics

L2. To be able to apply the principles of advanced concepts in atomic and nuclear physics to solve relevant problems.

L3. To perform practical tasks using a wide range of laboratory equipment, make accurate observations, estimate uncertainties, and draw conclusions.

L4. To communicate experimental work clearly by recording procedures and observations in a log book, and by writing formal written laboratory reports.

Employability Skills and Personal Development Planning (PDP) Skills
SCQF Headings During completion of this module, there will be an opportunity to achieve core skills in:
Knowledge and Understanding (K and U) SCQF Level 9.

*) Demonstrate and work with a broad and integrated knowledge and understanding of the scope, main areas, and boundaries of atomic and nuclear physics.
*) Demonstrate a critical understanding of a selection of the principal theories, concepts, and terminology.

Practice: Applied Knowledge and Understanding SCQF Level 9.

*) Use a selection of the principal skills, techniques, practices, and materials associated with experimental work in physics.
*) Use a few skills, techniques, practices, and materials that are specialised.
*) Practice routines, methods of enquiry and research.
*) Practice in a range of professional level contexts which include a degree of unpredictability.

Generic Cognitive skills SCQF Level 9.

*) Undertake critical analysis, evaluation, and synthesis of ideas, concepts, information, and issues.
*) Identify and analyse problems and issues.
*) Draw on a range of sources in making judgement.

Communication, ICT and Numeracy Skills SCQF Level 9.

Use a range of routine skills and some advanced and specialised skills in support of established practices in physics, for example:
*) make formal written presentations,
*) use a range of IT applications to support and enhance work,
*) interpret, use, and evaluate numerical and graphical data.

Autonomy, Accountability and Working with others SCQF Level 9.

*) Exercise autonomy and initiative in some activities at a professional level.
*) Take some responsibility for a range of resources.
*) Practice in ways which take account of roles and responsibilities.
*) Deal with professional issues in accordance with current professional
codes or practices, seeking guidance where appropriate.

Pre-requisites: Before undertaking this module the student should have undertaken the following:
Module Code:
Module Title:
Optics & Electronics
Oscillations, Waves & Fields
Properties of Matter
Mathematics for Physicists
Classical Mechanics and Special Relativity
Mathematics for Physicists 2
Other:or equivalent
Co-requisitesModule Code:
Module Title:

* Indicates that module descriptor is not published.

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Learning and Teaching
The delivery of this complex advanced Physics module is primarily lecture based. Lecture provision is complemented by tutorial work, mainly small group exercises that address the mathematical side of the underlying physical principles of atomic and nuclear physics. The lecture is meant to give the student a sound insight into these huge and complex subject areas. A reading list provided to point the students towards the relevant literature. An additional focus is practical work in the laboratory. Each student has to undertake three relevant nuclear experiments.
Students are encouraged to use the modern information retrieval systems for further understanding of the subject area. All lecture material is uploaded and presented via the VLE system (Moodle) at UWS. Adjustments for special needs can be made on request. Students are encouraged to use the VLE communication tools and to give feedback on the presented material as well as to discuss topics with their peers and the lecturing staff. The tutorials allow the students a deep learning approach. Critical evaluation of given standard problems in atomic and nuclear physics is core to the teaching. Group work is highly encouraged. As physics is an experimental science, selected modern experiments are incorporated in practical laboratory work (e.g. studies of radioactive decay). Within the laboratory the students have the unique possibility to gain a hands-on knowledge using state-of-the-art equipment and computer systems and software needed for analysis. Each experimental exercise will be recorded and the individual report will be assessed. An effective communication of experimental findings and an appreciation of their relevance for modern day physics in word and speech is essential for the completion of the module. To underpin learning experience, a formal lab-report will have to be produced for one experiment. We expect the student to extend her/his knowledge in private study which will be essential for the delivery of the coursework. The student can refer to a collection of relevant material provided by us. Self-study and self-assessment with formative exercises as issued during the tutorials or published e.g. on Moodle will be highly encouraged.
Learning Activities
During completion of this module, the learning activities undertaken to achieve the module learning outcomes are stated below:
Student Learning Hours
(Normally totalling 200 hours):
(Note: Learning hours include both contact hours and hours spent on other learning activities)
Lecture/Core Content Delivery24
Laboratory/Practical Demonstration/Workshop12
Tutorial/Synchronous Support Activity12
Independent Study152
200 Hours Total

**Indicative Resources: (eg. Core text, journals, internet access)

The following materials form essential underpinning for the module content and ultimately for the learning outcomes:

Krane, Kenneth S, Introductory Nuclear Physics, John Wiley and Sons (1987), [ISBN 047180553X] [ISBN13: 9780471805533] (still in print and available)

Young and Freedman, University Physics, Addison Wesley, 13th edition (2011), [ISBN-10: 0321696867]

Beiser, Concepts of Modern Physics, McGraw Hill (2002) [ISBN: 978-0321204691]

Eisberg and Resnick, Quantum Mechanics of Atoms, Molecules, Solids, Nuclei, and Particles, John Wiley and Sons, 2nd edition (1985) [ISBN: 978-0471873730] (still in print)

Knoll, Glenn F, Radiation Detection and Measurement, 4th edition, Don Fowley (2010) [ISBN-10: 0470131489] [ISBN-13: 978-0470131480]

VLE system at UWS, Moodle page for "Atoms & Nuclei"

(**N.B. Although reading lists should include current publications, students are advised (particularly for material marked with an asterisk*) to wait until the start of session for confirmation of the most up-to-date material)

Engagement Requirements

In line with the Academic Engagement Procedure, Students are defined as academically engaged if they are regularly engaged with timetabled teaching sessions, course-related learning resources including those in the Library and on the relevant learning platform, and complete assessments and submit these on time. Please refer to the Academic Engagement Procedure at the following link: Academic engagement procedure

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Supplemental Information

Programme BoardPhysical Sciences
Assessment Results (Pass/Fail) No
Subject PanelPhysical Sciences
ModeratorMichael Bowry
External ExaminerH Boston
Accreditation DetailsInstitute of Physics
Version Number


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Assessment: (also refer to Assessment Outcomes Grids below)
There are 2 formal assessed aspects to the module, exam and coursework. The exam is at the end of the trimester whilst the assessments which form the coursework part run throughout the whole trimester. The exam is worth 60% of the total mark and the coursework is worth 40% of the total mark. The coursework itself consists of two parts, the laboratory work assessment and a homework exercise. Both parts contribute with 20% towards the final coursework mark of 40%.
The exam covers all aspects of the taught provision and the questions are equally balanced between atomic and nuclear physics. A formula sheet will be provided.
The laboratory work will be assessed based on the three experiments which have to be undertaken by each student. Students will be asked to write an individual lab-report for each of the experiments. These reports will be evaluated with regard to their scientific content, structuring, evaluation of uncertainties, literature review and conclusions taken. The overall lab-performance e.g. hands-on skills, computer skills as demonstrated in the laboratory will be assessed as well. A formal lab-report based on a selected experiment has to be handed in by each student at the end of the semester. All four pieces of the laboratory assessment (3 laboratories (report and performance) + 1 formal lab-report) will equally contribute towards the final laboratory coursework mark of 20%.
In the homework part which is also worth 20% of the total mark, the student will be asked to solve more complex problems in atomic and nuclear physics. Normally, the homework assessment will be issued around mid semester.

Besides the formal assessment the students have the possibility to evaluate their performance in a series of formative assessments e.g. hands-on exercises in the lectures and tutorials.

(N.B. (i) Assessment Outcomes Grids for the module (one for each component) can be found below which clearly demonstrate how the learning outcomes of the module will be assessed.
(ii) An indicative schedule listing approximate times within the academic calendar when assessment is likely to feature will be provided within the Student Handbook.)

Assessment Outcome Grids (Footnote A.)

Component 1
Assessment Type (Footnote B.) Learning Outcome (1) Learning Outcome (2) Learning Outcome (3) Learning Outcome (4) Weighting (%) of Assessment ElementTimetabled Contact Hours
Unseen closed book (standard)check markcheck markcheck mark 602

Component 2
Assessment Type (Footnote B.) Learning Outcome (1) Learning Outcome (2) Learning Outcome (3) Learning Outcome (4) Weighting (%) of Assessment ElementTimetabled Contact Hours
Laboratory/ Clinical/ Field notebookcheck markcheck markcheck markcheck mark2012
Portfolio of written workcheck markcheck markcheck mark 2018
Combined Total For All Components100% 32 hours

A. Referred to within Assessment Section above
B. Identified in the Learning Outcome Section above

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  1. More than one assessment method can be used to assess individual learning outcomes.
  2. Schools are responsible for determining student contact hours. Please refer to University Policy on contact hours (extract contained within section 10 of the Module Descriptor guidance note).
    This will normally be variable across Schools, dependent on Programmes &/or Professional requirements.

Equality and Diversity
An element of laboratory work will be required (3 experiments)

(N.B. Every effort will be made by the University to accommodate any equality and diversity issues brought to the attention of the School)
UWS Equality and Diversity Policy
(N.B. Every effort will be made by the University to accommodate any equality and diversity issues brought to the attention of the School)

2014 University of the West of Scotland

University of the West of Scotland is a Registered Scottish Charity.

Charity number SC002520.