Last updated 2021-Feb-2

Physics 477 & 542: Physics of finite and infinite nuclear systems, Spring 2021

There will be no Final Exam for this course.


The course meets on Tuesday and Thursday at 11:30 am on Zoom. An additional meeting time of one hour per week has been scheduled to analyze homework and allow for the make-up of material. Class will start on Tuesday, January 26.

Instructor: Willem Dickhoff
Office: Compton 371; Email:
Office hours: TBD and by appointment
Class Online on Zoom Tuesday and Thursday 11:30 - 12:45
Homework & make-up section: Online on Zoom Friday 1:00-1:45 PM
Office hour Online on Zoom Wednesday 2:00-3:00 PM and by appointment


Course Textbook: Basic ideas and concepts in nuclear physics by Heyde, ISBN 0 7503 0980 6, is recommended. Some of the books listed below are available as ebooks.
Other useful books: Additional books that you should consult once in a while are:

Zelevinsky & Volya (ebook)
Donnelly et al
Thompson & Nunes
Bertulani (ebook)
Bertulani & Danielewicz
Shapiro & Teukolsky (ebook)
Siemens & Jensen
Bohr & Mottelson I & II (ebook only 1 user at a time..)
Ring & Schuck
Dickhoff & Van Neck (some material will be provided as necessary)

Course outline

The course is defined by the material discussed in the lectures and studied in the reading material. A tentative schedule is given below. It includes the material to read for the corresponding meeting, the material covered, and the assigned homework.

Reading Subject material Meeting date Homework
Ch. 1.1-1.3 Global nuclear properties 1/26/21 -Calculate the energy liberated when 240Pu splits into two 120Ag nuclei (use a table of binding energies; for example atomic masses).
(due 1/29)
Ch. 1.4 Densities & electron scattering 1/28/21 -Calculate the form factor for a Fermi distribution and adjust radius and diffuseness parameters to get the essence of the experimental (e,e) elastic cross section for Pb nuclei. Make a plot.
(due 1/29)
D1 Weekly meeting 1/29/21 Second quantization
Ch. 1.4-1.6 Angular momentum & moments 2/2/21 -Assume that nucleons are confined by 3-D square well of roughly the correct size and depth for 4He (one bound state). Determine the ground state wave function and plot the corresponding density distribution. Calculate the corresponding form factor and plot its square. (due 2/5)
Review: Wigner-Eckart theorem, parity
Ch. 1-8 Nuclear reactions 2/4/21 -Select one problem from #4 or #5 (p.91-92 book) and do problem #6 (p.92) (TBD)
D2 Weekly meeting 2/5/21 Wigner-Eckert and parity
Ch. 2.1-5 Decay properties 2/9/21 - Do problems #8, #9 (p.93), #20 (p.97) (due x/x as much as possible)
Ch.7 Liquid drop ideas 2/11/21 - Do problem #1(p.312) (due x/x)
D3 Weekly meeting 2/12/21
Ch. 7 Liquid drop corrections
2/16/21 - Do problem #3 (p.312) (due x/x)
Ch. 8 Fermi gas ideas 2/18/21 - Do problem #13 (p.315) together with the
part of #12 that is suggested. (due x/x)
D4 Weekly meeting 2/19/21
Ch. 9.1-4 Shell model I 2/23/21 Optional: study the factorization of the Hamiltonian of the 3D harmonic oscillator (ask for a copy of my notes if interested). Review any numerical work you have done related to calculating derivatives etc. Start thinking about a subject for a presentation. (due x/x)
Ch. 9.4-6 Shell model II; fermions; antisymmetry 2/25/21 Numerical problem: solve the single-particle problem for the Woods-Saxon potential discussed in class (including spin-orbit coupling) for neutrons in 208Pb and compare with experiment. (March project; can be done together; due date March x and certainly March y)
Compare with
and make plots of the l=0 bound wave functions. A comparison with corresponding 3D harmonic oscillator wave functions would be useful (with a suitably chosen oscillator parameter)
D5 Weekly meeting 2/26/21

3/2/21 Wellness day
Ch. 9.6-7 Antisymmetry and second quantization
Shell model III and isospin
3/4/21 Check all the isospin commutation relations not explicitly done in class. (due x/x)
D6 Weekly meeting 3/5/21

More on isopin and angular momentum coupling; States in A+/-2 nuclei and excited states 3/9/21 Determine the possible values of the total angular momentum allowed by the Pauli principle for 3 neutrons in the d5/2 orbit and compare with the low-lying states in 19O. Same for f7/2 and 43Ca. (due x/x)

Aspects of the nucleon-nucleon interaction 3/11/21 For those with spherical tensor experience: demonstrate the equalities shown for S12 in terms of the coupling of two spherical tensors of rank 2. (due x/x)
D7 Weekly meeting 3/12/21
Ch. 3.1-2 Two-particle quantum numbers and the Pauli principle; Time-dependent PT 3/16/21 Calculate the Fourier transform of the Yukawa potential using contour integration (due x/x or x/y)
Generate a few more T=0 and T=1 nucleon-nucleon channels beyond the ones shown in class (due x/x)
Ch. 5.1-3 Beta decay I 3/18/21 Problems #3 and #6 on p. 235 (due x/x)
D8 Weekly meeting 3/19/21
Ch. 5.3-4 Beta decay II 3/23/21 Problem #10 on p. 236 (due x/x)
Ch. 5.4-5 Beta decay III 3/25/21
D9 Weekly meeting 3/26/21
Ch. 6.1-3 Gamma decay I Quantization of the free electromagnetic field and coupling to charges 3/30/21
Ch. 6.3 Gamma decay II & Inelastic electron scattering 4/1/21 Check on the missing derivations of the quantization of the EM field and the longitudinal response function (due x/x)
D10 Weekly meeting

Ch. 10.1-3 Hartree-Fock 4/6/21 Check the matrix elements that lead to the Hartree-Fock equations (due x/x)
Ch. 10.3 Knockout reactions 4/8/21
D11 Weekly meeting 4/9/21
Chs. 6 & 10 Beyond HF 4/13/21 Prepare
Ch. 11.1-3 Excited states RPA 4/15/21 presentation
D12 Weekly meeting 4/16/21

Giant resonances 4/20/21 during

Giant resonances; Shell model 4/22/21 this
D13 Weekly meeting 4/23/21
Ch. 11 Aspects of nuclear pairing 4/27/21 period

current states of SRC & LRC 4/29/21
D14 Weekly meeting 4/30/21

Dispersive Optical Model
Presentations Student talks 5/11/21 10-12:30

Grading and format of the course

Course material is represented by material covered in class and by reading assignments in the textbook or equivalent material. To avoid unnecessary duplication, reading material is required study material before class meeting and appropriate homework must be attempted. Review of homework during weekly meetings presented by students. A presentation is required on a related topic that is not the subject of your research activities. Class participation and attendance is essential and therefore mandatory.


  1. Two meetings per week on Zoom.
  2. One homework/review meeting every week on Friday 1-2pm.
  3. Reading assignment for each class. Homework assignment for each class. Appropriate review of reading material during class mostly in lecture (perhaps some discussion) format. Homework can be discussed during class time and is reviewed during weekly sessions.
  4. 2 or 3 Computer assignments. Can be done in groups of 2.
  5. No written exams!
  6. A 25/30-minute presentation on material of a closely related topic. Attendance at all talks by other students is also required. This talk should include a motivation, a discussion of the method of solution and experimental data (where appropriate), a discussion of the results, and a summary plus conclusions of the presented material. A slide presentation is expected.
  7. Exit interview to assess understanding
Homework: Students are encouraged to form study groups and discuss the homework with each other, but each student must present his or her own solutions. You will be asked to demonstrate solution strategies of homework problems during the extra weekly session.

Course materials

Numerical homework assigned so far:

Assignment #1
Additional handouts:

Course Evaluation

During the evaluation period you can supply your evaluation of the course at the course evaluation website.