Physics and Astronomy

Physics Seminar Series

Alpha Particles: Useful, Small, Ubiquitous

presented by Chris Lotz C'20

Wednesday, February 27, 7:30 - 8:30pm, Woods Labs 216


Many elements exhibit radioactivity and we encounter more of it daily than we know. Have you ever wondered how smoke detectors work, or why lanterns give off light? The answer is simple: radioactive materials. One such form of radioactivity is alpha decay. In this process, an unstable element transforms into a new element by releasing a high-speed alpha particle.

In my research, I am using alpha spectroscopy to measure and analyze different spectra of alpha particles and determine what decay chain they came from and which element each peak represents. The applications of alpha spectroscopy extend beyond laboratory experiments into medical and environmental physics. In this presentation, I will describe in detail what alphas are, how and why they occur, and what I discovered about certain samples, as well as where I will take this project in the months ahead.


Chris Lotz, C’20, is a junior physics major at the University of the South from Franklin, TN. He is a member of the Sewanee swimming and diving team, and an Eagle Scout.

For more informationProf. Eugene Donev (931) 598-3154 |



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