Unfortunately, for chemists, are curriculum is (usually) not as rigorous in the mathematics and physics as I would’ve liked. This (in my humble opinion) is a disservice to those looking to explore more physical areas of chemistry.

As an aspiring nuclear chemist, I need some recommendations for a good place to start to learn nuclear physics at a level that is beneficial for a chemist. Preferably books that are more suited for the autodidact with limited contact with outside resources that can aid in my studies.

Additionally if anyone thinks I should look into any books/subjects that may not be present in a chemists curriculum but is necessary to this subject, that would be appreciated along with the necessary math required for each.

I’ve only really just begun graduate studies so advanced classes in either field is essentially zero


My (relevant) curriculum -

  1. Thermodynamics
  2. Quantum Mechanics
  3. Up to multi variable calculus
  4. Linear algebra
  5. Differential equations
  6. Mechanics
  7. Electromagnetism (freshman level)

Not sure about specific topics to cover in nuclear physics so a more broad introduction is preferred for a first book.

  • 4
    $\begingroup$ You may need to be more specific about what topics you're hoping to cover unless you're just looking for an introduction to nuclear physics, especially since people on this site may not know exactly what "subjects that may not be present in a chemists curriculum" involves. $\endgroup$
    – Charlie
    Commented Nov 16, 2020 at 14:22
  • $\begingroup$ Also a nuclear chemist is a chemist. It is not very clear what your interests are. I suggest to discuss this within your institution. Cross posting (if allowed) to Chemistry SE might be an option. $\endgroup$
    – Alchimista
    Commented Nov 16, 2020 at 14:32
  • $\begingroup$ Can you clarify what your exposure to electromagnetism is? Like, at the university physics 2 level or the senior level physics major course? The difference between electromagnetism at the freshman level and the graduate level is immense. If you can tell us what your exposure to it is, it'll help us gauge your mathematical background $\endgroup$
    – PaulPhy
    Commented Nov 16, 2020 at 14:34
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Alchimista I think I’m just so new to the subjects that I don’t even know where to start $\endgroup$
    – user277219
    Commented Nov 16, 2020 at 14:40
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ The MIT open course ware has several related to nuclear physics, ocw.mit.edu/courses/find-by-topic/… ,, there is one an introduction to nuclear and particle physics ocw.mit.edu/courses/physics/… $\endgroup$
    – anna v
    Commented Nov 16, 2020 at 17:26

1 Answer 1


So, while there are related posts for learning nuclear physics, I will answer this one because you also ask about the background to going into nuclear studies. My background is in high energy physics, but I think I can at least point you in the right direction for self study. The first things you should get under your belt are a good study ofelectromagnetism, quantum mechanics, and particle physics. My recommendations for all of these at the upper undergraduate level are written by the same infamous author: Griffiths. Don't just read these books. So much learning is done by trying to work out the problems in the books. Here are the links for each of the respective books by Griffiths:




Then I think it would be beneficial for you to at least dabble in quantum field theory. Before you do that though, you should really be exposed to graduate level quantum mechanics. My go to text at that level is Sakurai/Napolitano's book:


Be sure to get the newer edition which has a chapter on relativistic quantum mechanics. This is a heavy read though. It would probably take two semester to read through, so you might be able to get by with a lighter readying of it. For someone not looking to do theoretical physics, I would suggest learning quantum field theory from a book like "QFT for the Gift Amateur" by Lancaster/Blundell:


So finally, I can not personally recommend the text by Krane because I have not read it myself. However, every other post related to learning nuclear physics recommends the textbook by Kenneth Krane.


Best of luck in your self study!


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