NFYK16003U  Radiation Physics for Medical Physicists

Volume 2017/2018

MSc Programme in Physics
MSc Programme in Physics w. minor subject


The course is focused on the production and interaction of ionizing radiation with biological matter.

The course is divided into a theoretical part and an experimental part, each consisting of four weeks. The first part consists of lectures and theoretical exercises at NBI. The second part consists of four experimental exercises done at DTU, Risø.

The students will understand the sources of radiation, the different energy scales of the radiation and the matter which it traverses, and the ionization processes, which may cause damage to biological systems.

  • Sources of radiation and decay laws.
  • Classical and quantal scattering of charged particles, energy loss, stopping power and straggling of radiation in matter, the Bethe formula and the Bragg peak.
  • Photo-absorption, Compton scattering and pair production for gamma rays in matter.
  • Interaction of neutrons with matter.
Learning Outcome

After completing the course, the student will be able to:

  • Describe the sources of natural radiation and radiation generated by technical means, that is radioactive nuclei, cosmic radiation, X-ray machines, particle accelerators and neutron sources.
  • Explain the basic exponential decay law, the basic algebra of decay chains, and Poisson statistics for counting of radiation.
  • Describe the interaction of charged particles with matter, and the ionization processes and their dependence with the velocity of the radiation, especially as evidenced by the Bragg peak
  • Differentiate between the various interaction processes of gamma rays with matter, photo-absorption, Compton scattering and pair production, and qualitatively discuss their relative importance for light versus heavy elements, and for small versus large gamma ray energy.
  • Describe the interaction of neutrons with matter, scattering, thermalization, absorption and subsequent decay.
  • Understand the basis for thermoluminescent dosimetry, carry out and describe dosimetry measurements in various geometries (experimental exercise).
  • Describe the scintillation detection equipment of gamma rays, and differentiate between the various features of gamma spectra in relation to photo-absorption and Compton scattering. (experimental exercise)
  • Explain the theory and applications of beta-spectroscopy, continuous spectra and conversion electrons.
  • Explain electron dose kernels and the Cole experiment (cf. Podgorsak)
  • Calculate and evaluate the external dose and exposure from a given source, including buildup factors in shielding.
  • Demonstrate - through the discussion of scientific papers - application of the concepts and terms introduced in the course.


The student obtains an understanding of the physical background for the interaction of ionizing radiation with matter, especially biological matter.


The course will enable the student to perform detailed calculations of energy depositions in matter for all forms of ionizing radiation.  The course will provide the student with examples of interdisciplinary practice, drawing on results and considerations from physics, chemistry, biology and medicine.

See Absalon for final course material. The following is an example of expected course litterature.


E.B. Podgorsak, “Radiation Physics for Medical Physicists”, Springer-Verlag, plus scientific papers and reports.

Lectures and theoretical exercises. Four mandatory whole-day experimental exercises at Risø ,DTU.
7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Written examination, 3 hours under invigilation
written exam, 3 hours with all aids allowed
Exam registration requirements

Four reports on the experiments performed at Risø DTU should be approved prior to the exam.

All aids allowed
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
No external censorship
More internal examiners

Same as regular exam.

If the student did not participate in the experiments he/she cannot take the re-exam but must follow the course again.

If the student participated in the experiments, but the reports were not approved, new reports can be handed in 2 weeks before the re-exam.

If there are 10 students or less signed up for the re-exam, the exam form will be changed to oral exam.

Criteria for exam assesment

see learning outcome

  • Category
  • Hours
  • Lectures
  • 24
  • Practical exercises
  • 32
  • Theory exercises
  • 16
  • Guidance
  • 12
  • Exam
  • 3
  • Preparation
  • 119
  • Total
  • 206