AP 4010 Site Information

Introduction to Nuclear Science

Prof. Michael Mauel
Email: mauel@columbia.edu


Welcome to the AP 4010 class information site.

This introductory course is for individuals with an interest in medical physics and other branches of radiation science. Topics covered include: the Rutherford nuclear atom; properties of the nucleus. Radioactivity: decay chains, types of decay, half-lives, dating. Nuclear reactions, compound nucleus, cross sections. Models for alpha and beta decay; model of deuteron; scattering and nuclear forces. Interaction of radiation with matter, and detection of nuclear radiation. Artificial radioactivity, neutrons, neutron reactions, and neutron slowing down; moderators.

AP 4010 requires a prior experience with calculus and ordinary differential equations (like Mathematics V1202 or E1210 or Applied Mathematics E2101) and at least two semesters of general physics (Physics V1201 and V1202 or better). does not require prior programming experience (but prior computer experience and talent are helpful.) The goal of this course is to provide a solid understanding of both the fundamental and practical aspects of nuclear science without digging too deeply into the mathematics associated with nuclear physics.


The primary course textbook is Nuclear Physics: Principles and Applications by John Lilley. This is an excellent introduction to nuclear physics, and we will be following the textbook closely in the course. The Amazon.com link to this text is here.

I will occasionally refer to two other (very optional) textbooks that were written for medical physics students and radiologists. These are the compact Nuclear Medicine Physics: The Basics by Ramesh Chandra and the longer (more expensive) collection entitled Physics for Diagnostic Radiology ed. by P. P. Dendy and B. Heaton. These texts, or something similiar, will probably be used by medical physics students in their other courses.


A student's grade for the course will be based primarily on three open-book quizes. The quiz dates will be October 5, November 9, and December 7. Each quiz will be about 90 minutes at the beginning of the class period.

I will also assign weekly homework assignments that count only for about 10% of your final grade. Completing these homeworks will be the most important action you can take to learn the material. Homeworks are due at the beginning of the following class period.


This Web Site is a convenient resource for AP 4010. (I will also link to materials on the Columbia CourseWorks site for AP 4010. After logging into to CourseWorks, you must select "AP 4010" to view and download materials.) Also, see my course "blog" described below.

An introduction to the course is available in Adobe PDF format.

Lecture Date Subjects
Sept 7
  • Introduction to course and policies
  • Early history
  • Rutherford scattering
  • Size of the nucleus
  • Chapter 1 in Lilley's textbok
  • Homework #1 (Due Sept. 21)
  • Solutions to HW1
Sept 14
  • No class this week (make-up to be scheduled)
Sept 21
  • Passage of radition through matter (Chapter 5)
  • James Chadwick's Nobel Lecture about the discovery of the neutron, 1935. His lecture describes the early analysis of radiation passage through matter used to conclude that the neutron is without charge and with a mass near that of the proton.
  • Homework #2 (Due Sept. 28)
  • Solutions to HW2
Sept 28
  • Radiation detectors and instrumentation (Chapter 6)
  • Homework #3 (Due Oct. 5)
  • Remember: Quiz #1 next week. We'll cover chapters 1, 5, and 6 in the textbook. The quiz is open book and open notes. (No laptops.)
  • Solutions to HW3
Oct 5
  • QUIZ 1
  • Introduction to Nuclear Structure (Chapter 2)
  • (No homework this week... Please read chapter 2.)
  • Today: Introduction & Liquid Drop Model for Nucleus
Oct 12
Oct 19
  • Nuclear structure (Chapter 2)
  • Using the SEMF for nuclear mass
  • Introduction to the nuclear shell model
  • Homework #5 (Due October 26)
Oct 26
  • Deuteron: the simplest nucleus. (Chapter 2)
  • Introduction to nuclear instability (Chapter 3)
  • Homework #6 (Due November 9)
  • Solutions to HW5
Nov 2
  • No class (Election Day)
Nov 9
  • QUIZ 2 (Subject: Primarily Chapter 2: Nuclear Structure and Quantum Physics)
  • Solutions to HW6 (Quiz Preparation)
  • Nuclear Instability (Part 1) (Chapter 3)
Nov 16
  • No class (make-up to be scheduled)
Nov 23
  • Nuclear instabilities and reactions (Chapters 3 and 4)
  • Homework #7: Please do any four questions at the end of Chapter 3. We'll go over all problems in class today. Please also read Chapter 4. We'll start our discussion of nuclear reactions.
  • Solutions to HW7
Nov 30
Dec 7
Dec 14
  • QUIZ 3 (Emphasizing Chapters 3, 4, 10, and 11, but also covering all subjects in the course.)
  • At least one make-up lecture to review material, answer questions, practice problem solving, and prepare for examinations. (I would like to speak on fission, fusion, and the processing of fission by-products.)

Nuclear Science Links

Course Weblog

For the first time, I have decided to keep a "weblog" (also known as a "blog") during this course. I am not sure if anything important will be recorded there. The blog is like an instructor's diary. Anything and everything required for the course will be made available to you in class! But, the weblog does allow online discussions.

The link to my (personal) course blog is here.

You will also find opportunities to post and read online discussions at Columbia's CourseWorks site under the AP4010 links.

Professor Michael E. Mauel
Department of Applied Physics
Columbia University

Go to Prof. Mauel's HomePage