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HSCI 312: Radiation Science Fundamentals

Course website: (password protected)
Format: Lecture
Credits: 3.0


Introduce fundamental principles and concepts related to the interactions of ionizing radiation with physical and biological systems. The course emphasizes critical thinking and problem solving skills over rote memorization. Students are expected to become proficient at applying concepts and problem solving skills to selected areas in the radiation sciences, including radiation protection, radiation shielding, radiodating of geological samples, and radiation therapy for the treatment of cancer.


MA 224 (Introductory Analysis II), PHYS 221 (General Physics). Authorized equivalent courses or consent of instructor may be used in satisfying course pre- and co-requisites.

Course Objectives:

Upon completion of this course, the students should:

  • Understand the major types of ionizing radiation, how these particles interact in physical and biological systems, and the quantities and units used to characterize the intensity of a radiation field.
  • Understand fundamental concepts used throughout the radiological sciences, such as absorbed dose, linear energy transfer (LET), particle range and stopping power, fluence, fluence rate, radioactive decay, quality factor and the effective dose equivalent.
  • Understand radiation protection principles (e.g., time, distance and shielding) and key concepts related to radiation therapy for the treatment of cancer.
  • Be able to apply mathematical models and concepts from probability theory to gain additional insight into the behavior of ionizing radiation in physical and biological systems.

Textbook (required):

  • J.K. Shultis and R.E. Faw, Fundamentals of Nuclear Science and Engineering, ISBN 0-8247-0834-2, Marcel Dekker, New York, NY, 2002.

Required Reading:

  • JE Turner. Interaction of ionizing radiation with matter. Health Phys. 86(3):228-52 (2004).
  • RJ Preston. Radiation biology: concepts for radiation protection. Health Phys. 87(1):3-14 (2004).
  • DT Goodhead. Initial events in the cellular effects of ionizing radiations: clustered damage in DNA. Int J Radiat Biol. 65(1):7-17 (1994).

Selected Websites:

Topics covered in the course:

  • Units and Fundamental Concepts in Radiological Science
    • Modern Units
    • Special Nuclear Units
    • Physical Constants
    • The Atom
      • Atomic and Nuclear Nomenclature
      • Atomic and Molecular Weights
      • Avogadro's Number
      • Mass of an Atom
      • Atomic Number Density
      • Size of an Atom
      • Atomic and Isotopic Abundances
      • Nuclear Dimensions
      • Chart of the Nuclides
  • Introduction to Modern Physics
    • The Special Theory of Relativity
    • Principle of Relativity
      • Time Dilation
      • Length Contraction
      • Mass Increase
    • Results of the Special Theory of Relativity
    • Radiation as Waves and Particles
    • The Photoelectric Effect
    • Compton Scattering
    • Electromagnetic Radiation: Wave-Particle Duality
    • Electron Scattering
    • Uncertainty Principle
  • Atomic and Nuclear Models
    • Development of the Modern Atom Model
      • Discovery of Radioactivity
      • Thomson's Atomic Model: The Plum Pudding Model
      • The Rutherford Atomic Model
      • The Bohr Atomic Model
    • Models of the Nucleus
      • Fundamental Properties of the Nucleus
      • Stability of Nuclei
      • The Liquid Drop Model of the Nucleus
      • The Nuclear Shell Model
  • Nuclear Energetics (Binding Energy)
    • Nuclear and Atomic Masses
    • Binding Energy of the Nucleus
    • Average Nuclear Binding Energies
    • Nucleon Separation Energy
    • Nuclear Reactions
    • Q-Value for a Reaction
    • Radioactive Decay Reactions
    • Conservation of Charge and the Calculation of Q-Values
  • Radioactivity
    • Types of Radioactive Decay
    • Energetics of Radioactive Decay
      • Gamma Decay
      • Alpha-Particle Decay
      • Beta-Particle Decay
      • Positron Decay
      • Electron Capture
      • Neutron Decay
      • Proton Decay
      • Internal Conversion
      • Energy-Level Diagrams
    • Characteristics of Radioactive Decay
      • The Decay Constant
      • Exponential Decay
      • The Half-Life
      • Decay Probability for a Finite Time Interval
      • Mean Lifetime
      • Activity
      • Decay with Production
      • Three Component Decay Chains
      • General Decay Chain
    • Naturally Occurring Radionuclides
      • Cosmogenic Radionuclides
      • Singly Occurring Primordial Radionuclides
      • Decay Series of Primordial Origin
      • Secular Equilibrium
      • Radiodating
  • Radiation Interactions with Matter
    • Attenuation of Neutral Particle Beams
      • The Linear Interaction Coefficient
      • Attenuation of Uncollided Radiation
      • Average Travel Distance Before an Interaction
      • Half-Thickness
      • Scattered Radiation
      • Microscopic Cross Sections
    • Calculation of Radiation Interaction Rates
      • Flux Density
      • Reaction-Rate Density
      • Generalization to Energy- and Time-Dependent Situations
      • Radiation Fluence
      • Uncollided Flux Density from an Isotropic Point Source
    • Photon Interactions
      • Photoelectric Effect
      • Compton Scattering
      • Pair Production
      • Photon Attenuation Coefficients
    • Neutron Interactions
      • Classification of Types of Interactions
      • Fission Cross Sections
    • Attenuation of Charged Particles
      • Interaction Mechanisms
      • Particle Range
      • Stopping Power
      • Estimating Charged-Particle Ranges
  • Radiation Doses and Hazard Assessment
    • Historical Roots
    • Energy Imparted to the Medium
    • Absorbed Dose
    • Kerma
    • Exposure
    • Microdosimetry
    • Relative Biological Effectiveness
    • Dose Equivalent
    • Quality Factor
    • Effective Dose Equivalent
    • Effective Dose
  • Introduction to Radiation Biology
    • Nature of the Damage Caused by Ionizing Radiation
    • Cellular Responses to Ionizing Radiation
    • Four R's of Radiation Biology (repair, repopulation, reoxygenation, redistribution)
    • Biological basis for radiation therapy
  • Health Effects of Ionizing Radiation
    • Deterministic Effects in Organs and Tissues
    • Hereditary Effects
    • Classification of Genetic Effects
    • Cancer Risks from Radiation Exposures
    • Radiation Protection Standards
    • Time, distance, shielding, ALARA.

Other Resources (not required):

  • Textbooks:
    • H Cember. Introduction to Health Physics, Third Edition, McGraw-Hill, 1996.
    • EJ Hall, Radiobiology for the Radiologist, Fifth Edition, Philadelphia, Lippincott,Williams and Wilkins, 2000.
    • F.M. Khan, The Physics of Radiation Therapy. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, third edition, 2003.
    • Glenn F. Knoll, Radiation Detection and Measurement. Wiley Text Books, third edition, 1999.
    • AHW Nias, An Introduction to Radiobiology, Second Edition, John Wiley and Sons, 1998 (reprinted in 2000).
    • Richard Rhodes. The Making of the Atomic Bomb, Simon & Schuster, Inc. 1986.
    • Richard Rhodes. Dark Sun: The making of the Hydrogen Bomb, Simon & Schuster, Inc. 1995.
    • The American Atom: A documentary history of nuclear polices from discover of fission to the present. Second Edition, Edited by Philip L. Cantelon, Richard G. Hewlett, and Robert C. Williams. University of Pennsylvania Press 1991.
    • Bernard Shleien, Lester A., Jr. Slaback, Brian Birky, Bernard Shleien, Handbook of Health Physics and Radiological Health. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, third edition, 1997.
    • JK Shultis, RE Faw, Radiation Shielding. Prentice Hall, 1996.
    • JE Turner. Atoms, Radiation, and Radiation Protection, Second Edition, John Wiley & Sons, Inc. 1995.
  • ICRU Reports:

    The International Commission on Radiation Units and Measurements (ICRU) periodically published reports on selected topics. These are a definitive source of information about quantities and units for radiation research. Reports published by the ICRU include:

    • Report 62 Prescribing, Recording and Reporting Photon Beam Therapy (Supplement to ICRU Report 50) (1999)
    • Report 60 Fundamental Quantities and Units for Ionizing Radiation (1998)
    • Report 57 Conversion Coefficients for Use in Radiological Protection Against External Radiation (1998)
    • Report 56 Dosimetry of External Beta Rays for Radiation Protection (1997)
    • Report 55 Secondary Electron Spectra from Charged Particle Interactions (1996)
    • Report 52 Particle Counting in Radioactivity Measurements (1994)
    • Report 51 Quantities and Units in Radiation Protection Dosimetry (1993)
    • Report 50 Prescribing, Recording and Reporting Photon Beam Therapy (1993)
    • Report 49 Stopping Powers and Ranges for Protons and Alpha Particles (1993)
    • Report 40 The Quality Factor in Radiation Protection (1986).
    • Report 36 Microdosimetry (1983).
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