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Quantum Mechanics and Nuclear Physics

Semester 1

The course is presented in two sections. Section one introduces students to the theory and applications of quantum mechanics. The limitations of classical physics in explaining certain phenomena are discussed, highlighting the need for quantum mechanics. The language of operators and eigenfunctions is developed and used to explain the behavior of an electron in infinite and finite potential wells in 1-dimension via Schroedinger’s equation. The concept of quantum mechanical tunneling is also discussed. In section two, students are introduced to the theory and application of nuclear physics, and the basic properties of the nucleus. This sets the background for detailed discussion on alpha decay and the interactions of particles with matter. Examples of the applications of nuclear physics are examined through the theory and operation of radiation detectors and magnetic resonant imaging (MRI).


Nuclear Physics:  

  • Basic properties of the nucleus;
  • liquid drop model of the nucleus;
  • a decay & quantum mechanical tunneling;
  • interactions of particles with matter;
  • radiation detectors and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)

Quantum Mechanics:  

  • Limitations of classical physics,
  • operators and eigenfunctions;
  • Schroedinger’s equation and the wave function (y);
  • solutions of Schroedinger’s equation for infinite and finite potential wells, step potential barrier & tunneling, and finite square well

The course assessment will be conducted as follows.


Five tutorial assignments (equal weighting)                      10%

Five pop quizzes (equal weighting)                                  20 %

Two 1-hour In-course tests (equal weighting)                 30%

Final Examination

One 2-hour final written examination                               40% 

Students will be expected to satisfy the examiners in both components

Learning Objectives: 

At the end of the course, students should be able to:

  • describe the basic properties of the nucleus, and explain the grouping of protons and neutrons
  • describe the major  developments in quantum mechanics & nuclear physics
  •  analyse the effects of ionizing radiation on living organisms, and explain the operation of the MRI with respect to nuclear physics
  • use Schroedinger’s equation to derive expressions for the energy levels of an electron in an infinite or finite potential well
  • explain the quantum tunneling effect, and calculate the probability of  an electron jumping over a barrier of finite thickness 
PHYS1411 and PHYS1412 and PHYS1421 and PHYS1422


Serway, R. A., Moses C. J., and Moyer, C. A., (2004), Modern Physics, 3rdEdition, Brooks Cole Publishing. ISBN: 978-0534493394; ISBN-13: 978-0534493394

Highly Recommended

Beiser, A., (2002), Concepts of Modern Physics, 6th Edition, McGraw-Hill. ISBN: 978-0070495531; ISBN-13: 978-0070495531

Online Resources:



Course Code: 
3 Credits
Level 2
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