Special Topics in Nuclear Physics - Nuclear Reactions in Astrophysics (PHYS*7160)

Code and section: PHYS*7160*01

Term: Fall 2020

Instructor: Liliana Caballero


Course Description

This course will bring together the physics background needed to understand the evolution of stars and the synthesis of elements in our Universe. At the end of the course, students will have built knowledge on nuclear reactions and basic astrophysical concepts that play a role in nucleosynthesis.

The course will be as self-contained as possible, but previous background on quantum mechanics and statistical physics is needed. Basic nuclear and astro physics material will be covered.

Class Schedule

Tuesday and Thursday from 1:00 p.m to 2:30 p.m
Lectures will start on September 15, 2020

Lecture Delivery

This course will be delivered through synchronous on-line lectures via courselink. Guelph students will be immediately enrolled in courselink. Waterloo students will be granted access.


Liliana Caballero
email: ocaballe@uoguelph.ca
Office: MacN 433D

Office hours

By appointment. Please email the instructor

Recommended texts

  • Christian Iliadis, Nuclear Physics of Stars, Wiley, Second edition
  • Richard N. Boyd, An Introduction to Nuclear Astrophysics, The University Chicago Press

Course Content

  1. Summary of nucleosynthesis processes and their sites
  2. Astrophysics background
    Stellar structure
    Stellar evolution
    White dwarfs
    Neutron stars
  3. Nuclear physics background
    Masses, Binding energies
    Nuclear shell model
    Nuclear collective models
  4. Nuclear reactions
    Thermonuclear reaction rates
  5. Nuclear burning stages and stellar evolution
    Hydrogen burning
    Nuclear statistical equilibrium
    s-process, r-process, rp-process

Course Evaluation

There will be assignments, one project/seminar, and one final exam. 
Note that although you are permitted to discuss the homework problems with your classmates, you must to write up the solutions yourself. Copying will not be tolerated. Later assignments will not be accepted unless special arrangements are made ahead of time. 
Project and seminar: You will choose a paper to review, write a proposal (no more than one page) and deliver a 15 minute presentation + 5 minutes for questions. The proposal should contain the reason why you think this paper is relevant to the course content and what you are going to explain from that paper. Your instructor will approve your proposal in advance.  Note that some of you are already doing work in nuclear or astro -physics. If you consider talking about your research area that’s perfectly fine but in your proposal and talk you should discuss the application to the course content. Presentations will take place during the last week of November 2020. Attendance to all talks is mandatory.

The final mark of the course will be calculated with the following scheme. No other marking schemes will be considered.

Assignments Project Proposal Seminar Exam
30% 10% 25% 35%

Proposal deadline: October 16th 2020 (only PDF copies)

Final exam date and time: TBA. This will be a take home exam

Course Policies

Drop date

The last date to drop one-semester courses, without academic penalty, is December 4 2020. For regulations and procedures for

Dropping Courses, see the Academic Calendar.

Course Policy regarding use of electronic devices and recording of lectures

Electronic recording of classes is expressly forbidden without consent of the instructor.  When recordings are permitted they are solely for the use of the authorized student and may not be reproduced, or transmitted to others, without the express written consent of the instructor.

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 academic calendar for information on regulations and procedures for Academic Consideration


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 as soon as possible.

For more information, contact CSD at 519-824-4120 ext. 56208 or email accessibility@uoguelph.ca or see the university website on Accessibility. 

Course Evaluation Information

Please refer to the Course and Instructor Evaluation Website


Please note that the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic may necessitate a revision of the format of course offerings and academic schedules. Any such changes will be announced via CourseLink and/or class email. All University-wide decisions will be posted on the COVID-19 website and circulated by email.  


The University will not require verification of illness (doctor's notes) for the fall 2020 or winter 2021 semesters.