Radioactivity and Radiation Interactions (PHYS*3170)

Code and section: PHYS*3170*01

Term: Fall 2023


General Information

Department of Physics
PHYS*3170 Fall 2023
Radioactivity and Radiation Interactions

Course Description

This course introduces the student to concepts in radiation physics with underlying emphasis on its practical application in medical physics. Topics include: atomic and nuclear structure, introduction to different types of radiation and their reaction mechanisms, natural and artificially generated radioisotopes, the interaction of radiation with matter, radioactive decay processes, human dosimetry calculations and external radiation shielding. This course is meant to provide the studentwith the capacity to carry out calculations in this field and provide context to material taught in upperlevel physics courses.

Prerequisites:(1 of IPS*1510, Math*1210, Math*2080) and (Math*2170 or Math*2270)

For Course Instructor, Class Time and Location, please check CourseLink.


Course Materials


  • James E. Turner, “Atoms, Radiation, and Radiation Protection”, 3rd ed., John Wiley & Sons, 2007.

The textbook can be used as supporting reading material during the course; however, the course will not follow the order the material is presented. This text is available electronically as an ebook through the library website, search primo for Turner and radiation.


  • The course website is on CourseLink Desire to Learn (D2L) website. All students registered in this course have access through their University of Guelph Central Login account.

We will use various online resources:

Other possible Resources for in-detail discussions

  • K.S. Krane, “Introductory Nuclear Physics”, 3rd Edition, Wiley, 1987



Component Weight
Online Quizzes 10%
Assignments 30%
Midterm Exam 30% or 20%
Final Exam 30% or 40%

I will apply the more favorable scheme for final and midterm exam for every student. 

The short weekly online quizzes will probe and try to challenge your correct understanding of the material discussed in class and ask you to briefly answer questions based on concepts from recent lectures in your own words. The 5 assignments will be posted on courselink, typically at least 10 days before the due date. Your work needs to be handed in as one merged pdf file through the dropbox folder. Late assignments will be deducted 10% per day. No assignments can be accepted after the solutions are posted, usually two days after the due date.

Contact the instructor well in advance if your submission is expected to be delayed due to excusable circumstances.

Midterm and Final Exams

Midterms: Please check CourseLink.

Finals: Please check CourseLink.

Midterm and final exams will be closed book with questions similar to the assignments. You will be provided with an equation sheet in advance of the exams. You are allowed to prepare a letter sized (both sides), handwritten cheat sheet with your notes. Usual, non-programmable pocket calculators are permitted.

If you miss the midterm exam due to illness or compassionate reasons, please contact the instructor. See your Program Counsellor if you require assistance. If you miss the final examination, see your Program Counsellor. Please refer to “Process for Academic Consideration and Appeals” inthe 2023/24 Undergraduate Calendar.



By the end of this course, you should be familiar with:

  • Basics of nuclear physics that explains natural occurring and artificially produced radioactive elements and their decay mechanisms
  • The different types of radiation and their interaction with matter and living cells
  • The concepts and application of dose and exposure to assess and quantify the damaging effects of radiation on cells and organisms
  • Applications of nuclear physics in medicine (diagnosis and treatments) and science (Biology, Chemistry, Geology,  Archaeology,  Engineering,...)
  • Solve numerical problems related to nuclear physics



The following schedule provides a tentative guide of the material covered during the semester.  

Week Content
Week 1 Introduction, radiation, nuclear binding energy
Week 2 Coulomb barrier, decay modes
Week 3 Decay chains
Week 4 Interaction of charged particles with matter, stopping power
Week 5 Interaction of photons (x-rays, \(\gamma\)) with matter, x-ray tubes, shielding
Week 6 Energy fluence, dose
Week 7 Interaction of neutrons with matter
Week 8 Dosimetry
Week 9 Microdosimetry
Week 10 Equivalent and effective dose
Week 11 Application of nuclear physics in medical diagnostics and treatment
Week 12 Reviews before midterms and finals

It is required to regularly check the Courselink webpage, where quizzes, lecture material, notes, assignments and solutions and further materials or announcements are posted. The typical weekly short quizzes will probe and solidify the main concepts and materials covered in that week. They are intended to entice students to keep up with the course material throughout the semester.


Course Policies

(Not) Working With Other Students

All work submitted for grading in this course must be each individual student's own work. While students are encouraged to share thoughts and ideas, it is not acceptable to share assignment solutions. The work on the assignments by yourself, i.e. to start filling the blank paper with calculations based on the concepts and examples discussed in the lectures, is an essential step inthe solid understanding of the material and crucial as preparation for the exams.

Online Behaviour

Inappropriate online behaviour will not be tolerated. Examples of inappropriate online behaviour include:

  • Posting inflammatory messages about your instructor or fellow students
  • Using obscene or offensive language online
  • Copying or presenting someone else's work as your own
  • Adapting information from the Internet without using proper citations or references
  • Buying or selling term papers or assignments
  • Posting or selling course materials to course notes websites
  • Having someone else complete your quiz or completing a quiz for/with another student
  • Stating false claims about lost quiz answers or other assignment submissions
  • Threatening or harassing a student or instructor online
  • Discriminating against fellow students, instructors and/or TAs
  • Using the course website to promote profit-driven products or services
  • Attempting to compromise the security or functionality of the learning management system
  • Sharing your user name and password
  • Recording lectures without the permission of the instructor


University Policies

Academic Consideration

When you find yourself unable to meet an in-course requirement because of illness or compassionate reasons, please advise the course instructor in writing, with your name, id#, and e-mail contact. See the Undergraduate Calendar for information on regulations and procedures for academic consideration.

Academic Misconduct

The University of Guelph is committed to upholding the highest standards of academic integrity and it is the responsibility of all members of the University community, faculty, staff, and students to be aware of what constitutes academic misconduct and to do as much as possible to prevent academic offences from occurring.

University of Guelph students have the responsibility of abiding by the University’s policy on academic misconduct regardless of their location of study; faculty, staff  and students have the responsibility of supporting an environment that discourages misconduct. Students need to remain aware that instructors have access to and the right to use electronic and other means of detection. Please note: Whether or not a student intended to commit academic misconduct is not relevant for a finding of guilt. Hurried or careless submission of assignments does not excuse students from responsibility for verifying the academic integrity of their work before submitting it. Students who are in any doubt as to whether an action on their part could be construed as an academic offence should consult with a faculty member or faculty advisor.

The Academic Misconduct Policy is detailed in the Undergraduate Calendar.


The University of Guelph is committed to creating a barrier-free environment. Providing services for students is a shared responsibility among students, faculty and administrators. This relationship is based on respect of individual rights, the dignity of the individual and the University community’s shared commitment to an open and supportive learning environment. Students requiring service or accommodation, whether due to an identified, ongoing disability or a short-term disability should contact Student Accessibility Services (SAS) as soon as possible.

Course Evaluation

The Department of Physics requires student assessment of all courses taught by the Department. These assessments provide essential feedback to faculty on their teaching by identifying both strengths and areas of improvement. In addition, student assessments provide part of the information used by the Department Tenure and Promotion Committee in evaluating the faculty member’s contributions in the area of teaching. You are therefore encouraged to take the evaluation procedures seriously, and to provide feedback about this course and its instructor.

Drop date

The last date to drop one-semester courses, without academic penalty, is 1 December 2023. For regulations and procedures for Dropping Courses, see the Undergraduate Calendar.