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Indiana University Bloomington
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PHYS-P 371 Radiation Science Fundamentals

Credit hours: 3

Course Description
This course may be taken in place of PHYS-P 301. It introduces principles and concepts related to radioactive decay, the interactions of ionizing radiation with matter, dosimetry and the human health effects of exposure to ionizing radiation. The course briefly reviews fundamental concepts related to atomic and sub-atomic physical processes as well as relevant aspects of modern physics, including selected aspects of the Special Theory of Relativity, wave/particle duality and the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle. The course emphasizes critical thinking and problem solving skills over rote memorization, and students are expected to become proficient at manipulating the quantities and units used in the radiation sciences. Students are also expected to become adept at using critical thinking and problem solving skills to gain a deeper understanding of fundamental radiation science concepts. Students will gain practical experience and enhance their understanding of radiation protection by participating in radiological emergency response training.


  • M211 Calculus I (or S211 or M215)
  • M212 Calculus II (or S212 or M216)
  • M311 Multivariate Calculus
  • M343 Introduction to Differential Equations (recommended)
  • P221 Introductory Physics I
  • P222 Introductory Physics II
    or equivalent courses
    or the consent of the instructor

Course Objectives
Upon completion of this course the student will be able to:

  • Understand the major types of ionizing radiation and the approximate sizes and energies involved in physical processes on the atomic and sub-atomic scale (develop a “sense of scale” for the atomic and sub-atomic world)
  • Understand the major types of radioactive decay, decay chains, the rates of particle emission, and the interactions of radiation with matter
  • Understand and be proficient at manipulating the physical quantities and systems of units used in the radiological sciences, such as isotope half-life, activity, absorbed dose, linear energy transfer (LET), stopping power, range, fluence, fluence rate, quality factor and effective dose equivalent
  • Understand the major health effects of exposure to radiation and be able to apply radiation protection principles (e.g., time, distance and shielding) to minimize the potentially harmful effects of exposure to ionizing radiation
  • Be proficient at applying critical thinking and problem-solving skills to gain insight into the physical processes underlying the radiological sciences

Required and Recommended Textbooks

  •  J.K. Shultis and R.E. Faw, Fundamentals of Nuclear Science and Engineering, CRC Press 2nd
    edition (September 7, 2007)

    NOTE: Could manage with the 1st edition (J.K. Shultis and R.E. Faw, Fundamentals of Nuclear Science and Engineering, ISBN 0-8247-0834-2, Marcel Dekker, New York, NY, 2002. However, page numbers and content will differ somewhat. Also, the first edition had quite a few errata that are correct in the second edition.

    The course will cover all or portions of the material presented in
    • Chapter 1 Fundamental Concepts
    • Chapter 2 Modern Physics Concepts
    • Chapter 3 Atomic and Nuclear Models
    • Chapter 4 Nuclear Energetics
    • Chapter 5 Radioactivity
    • Chapter 7 Radiation Interactions with Matter
    • Chapter 8 Detection and Measurement of Radiation
    • Chapter 9 Radiation Dose and Hazard Assessment

    Students are responsible for, and may be tested on, all material covered in the lectures as well as material from the textbook. The lectures are designed to supplement, and not replace, the materials covered in the textbook. A list of additional textbooks, reports and journal articles related to the radiological sciences can be found in the “Related textbooks and other reading” document available on the course website.

This course is shared with IU Bloomington from Purdue University through CIC CourseShare and distance learning technology.