Academic Year 2023/2024 - Teacher: GIUSEPPE STELLA

Expected Learning Outcomes

The course aims to provide students with basic knowledge of physical methodologies that can be used in applied contexts of cultural heritage, environment, biology and medicine: knowledge of the origin, provenance, characterisation and dating of archaeological and historical-artistic interest artworks; knowledge in the radioactivity field and their implications in the environmental field; knowledge of theories and methods of physics for understanding how biological systems function; knowledge of methodologies applied in the medical field within of diagnostic systems, radiation therapies and radiation protection from ionising and non-ionising radiation.

Knowledge and understanding

Critical understanding in applied physics field in both theoretical and laboratory aspects and their interconnections, also in interdisciplinary fields. Considerable knowledge of the scientific method, understanding of the nature and procedures of research in the field, knowledge of the experimental aspect with particular reference to the choice of methods for different applications.

Capability to apply the knowledge in order to:

Identify the essential elements of a phenomenon, in terms of order of magnitude and level of approximation required, and be able to make the required approximations.

Use the tool of analogy to apply known solutions to new problems (problem solving).

Design and implement experimental and theoretical procedures for new measurements or the improvement of existing results.

Autonomy of judgment

Ability to work with increasing degrees of autonomy, including assuming responsibilities in the planning and management of projects. Awareness of safety issues in laboratory work. Ability to argue personal interpretations of physical phenomena, confronting each other in working groups. Development of a sense of responsibility through the choice of optional courses and thesis topic.

Communication skills.

Ability to communicate in the specific fields of Physics. Ability to present one's own research activity or review both to an expert and to an non-expert audience. Ability to work in an interdisciplinary team, adapting modes of expression to interlocutors of different cultures.

Learning capacity.

Ability to acquire adequate cognitive tools for the continuous updating of knowledge. Ability to use databases and bibliographic and scientific resources to extract information and insights to better frame and develop one's own study and research work.

Course Structure

Frontal and theoretical-practical lectures, seminars for all 6 CFU.

Cooperative teaching (student-teacher) by sharing teaching materials and multimedia aids.

Required Prerequisites

Knowledge of General Physics and elements of Modern Physics.

Attendance of Lessons

Attendance at the course is normally compulsory (please refer to the Course Regulations).

Detailed Course Content

Elements of Environmental Physics and Radioactivity (4h)

Origin and primordial composition. Present composition and static structure of the atmosphere. Characteristic quantities: temperature, pressure and humidity. Thermodynamics of the atmosphere. Black body radiation. Solar radiation spectrum. Radioactivity, origin and characteristics. Radioactivity measurement, activity. Radioactivity sources. Terrestrial radioactivity and monitoring. Applications.

Elements of Medical Physics (9h)

Ionising and non-ionising radiation. Radiation-matter interaction. Elements of dosimetry. Exposure and dose. Quality factor. Dose measurement methods. Personal dosimetry. Biological effects of radiation. Radiation protection. Risk factors. Medical applications: diagnostic systems and radiation therapy.

Elements of Archaeometry (8h)

Applications of Physics for Diagnostics, Conservation and Restoration of Cultural Heritage. Characterisation methods. Dating methods. Microclimatic monitoring. Case studies.

Introduction to cellular and molecular biophysics (7h)

What is biophysics.  Characterization of the cell and its components. Characteristic scales of Space, Time, Energy. Thermodynamic equilibrium in the cell and macromolecules. Fluid dynamics. Molecular diffusion and dynamic processes.

Fluorescence spectroscopy (6h)

Electromagnetic spectrum and light-matter interaction. Absorption. Absorption spectra. Beer-Lambert law and extinction coefficient. Fluorescence. Background. Emission spectra. Quantum yield. Quenching. Photobleaching. Fluorescence lifetime. Energy transfer (FRET).

Optical microscopy (8h)

Optical microscope. Phase contrast microscope. Fluorescence microscopy. Fluorescent probes and labeling techniques. Confocal microscopy and applications. Resolution of the optical microscope. Super-resolution microscopy.

Textbook Information

Materials provided during the course.

Attix F.H., "Introduction to Radiological Physics and Radiation Dosimetry", Wiley, 2007

Bushberg J.T, Seibert J.A., Leidholdt E.M. Jr., Boone J.M., "The Essential Physics of Medical Imaging", Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2012, 1030

Edwards H. and Vandenabeele P., 2012, Analytical Archaeometry: Selected Topics, The Royal Society of Chemistry

Oleari C., Standard Colorimetry: Definitions, Algorithms and Software, 2016, John Wiley Sons Inc

Aitken, M.J , Thermoluminescence Dating & Optical dating of sediments, Academic Press Inc.

John M. Wallace • Peter V. Hobbs, Atmospheric Science. An Introductory Survey. Second Edition. University of Washington- 2006

Alessandrini, Fisica per le scienze della vita, CEA, 2023

Phillips et al. Physical Biology of the Cell, CRC Press 2013

D. Jameson, Introduction to Fluorescence, CRC Press 2014

Course Planning

 SubjectsText References
1Elements of Environmental Physics and RadioactivityJohn M. Wallace • Peter V. Hobbs, Atmospheric Science. An Introductory Survey. SecondEdition. University of Washington- 2006
2Elements of Medical PhysicsAttix F.H.; Introduction to Radiological Physics and Radiation Dosimetry, Wiley, 2007Bushberg J.T, Seibert J.A., Leidholdt E.M. Jr., Boone J.M.; The Essential Physics of MedicalImaging, Lippincott Williams ; Wilkins, 2012, 1030
3Elements of Archaeometry
5Fluorescence spectroscopy
6Optical microscopy

Learning Assessment

Learning Assessment Procedures

The examination consists of an oral interview on the course contents.
The criteria for the assessment: 1) relevance of the answers to the questions asked; 2) level of in-depth study of the contents exposed; 3) ability to connect with other topics covered in the programme.

Exam dates: as a rule, 8 exam sessions are set for each Academic Year; Consult the Exam Calendar of the Bachelor's Degree in Physics: http://www.dfa.unict.it/corsi/L-30/esami

Examples of frequently asked questions and / or exercises

The questions below do not constitute an exhaustive list but represent just a few examples:

  • Experimental measurements for colour specification.
  • Dating of ceramics and sediments by stimulated luminescence.
  • The role of Raman spectrometry for the study of Cultural Heritage.
  • Definition of equivalent and effective dose;
  • Biological effects of ionising radiation;
  • Medical applications: X-ray systems, CT, PET, radiation therapy:
  • Definition of temperature, pressure and humidity
  • Black body radiation
  • Mechanisms of heat transmission
  • Atmospheric pollutants
  • Sources of radiation;
  • Radiation-matter interaction;
  • Law of radioactive decay;
  • Activity;
  • Characteristic scales of Space, Time and Energy in biological systems.
  • Thermodynamic equilibrium in the cell and macromolecules
  • Molecular diffusion
  • Beer-Lambert law and extinction coefficient
  • Absorption and emission spectra
  • Fluorescence lifetime
  • Quantum yield of fluorescence
  • Description of the FRET process
  • Optical microscope. 
  • Phase contrast microscope
  • Fluorescence microscopy
  • Confocal microscopy
  • Microscope resolution