Atomic and Molecular Physics (PHYS*4120)

Code and section: PHYS*4120*01

Term: Fall 2019

Instructor: Michael Massa


Course Description

The application of quantum theory to atomic and molecular structure, and the interaction between electromagnetic radiation and atoms and simple molecules.



Tuesday, Thursday
1:00 to 2:20 pm
MCKN 306


Wednesday, October 23, 2019
7:00p - 9:00p
Room TBA

Final Exam

Friday, December 6, 2019 
11:30a - 1:30p 
Room TBA

Instructional Support

Instructor:  Michael Massa
Telephone:  +1-519-824-4120 x52625
Office:  MACN 328
Office Hours: TBA, and will be arranged at the first lecture


Two assessment schemes will be considered. The scheme which yields the higher score will automatically be applied.

Assessment Scheme 1 Scheme 2
Assignments 30% 30%
Midterm 30% 20%
Final 40% 50%

Course Topics

Part 1: Atoms (~70%)

  • Overview of atomic structure: Interaction and energy scales, qualitative effect of spin, Pauli principle. Some spectroscopic notation.
  • Central forces and Angular momentum: Conmmutator relations, ladder operators, review of hydrogen atom solutions, spherical harmonics, spin angular momentum, addition of angular momentum.
  • Dealing with many electrons: Pauli principle, anti-symmetrization. Variational principle with application to He, H-. Approximate treatment of more than two electrons – independent particle picture + perturbation treatment of e-e repulsion.
  • Fine structure (spin-orbit coupling), hyperfine structure (nuclear spin and shape effects).
  • External perturbations: Zeeman and Stark effects.
  • Transition probabilities: Selection rules, Fermi’s golden rule.

Part 2: Molecules (~30%)

  • Born-Oppenheimer separation: Variational treatment of H2+. Molecular orbitals and qualitative treatment of H2 and first-row two diatomic molecules. Van der Waals forces.
  • Vibration and rotation of diatomic molecules. Separation of variables, harmonic vibration and simple rotation. Anharmonic effects. Morse potential. Interpretation of molecular spectra, deduction of molecular constants. Selection rules, (nuclear) spin statistics. Thermal effects.

Learning Resources

Required Resources

  • Courselink (Website)
    The course website can be found by logging into
  • The Fundamentals of Atomic and Molecular Physics (Textbook)
    R.L. Brooks, Springer 2013.

Additional Resources

  • References (Readings)
    Familiarity with a quantum text of your choice is essential.  Griffiths’ “Quantum Mechanics” covers some of the material in this course.  Gerhard Herzberg’s “Atomic spectra and atomic structure” and “Molecular spectra and molecular structure, Vol 1” are gold mines of experimental information with wonderful qualitative discussions.

University Statements

Email Communication

As per university regulations, all students are required to check their e-mail account regularly: e-mail is the official route of communication between the University and its students.

When You Cannot Meet a Course Requirement

When you find yourself unable to meet an in-course requirement because of illness or compassionate reasons please advise the course instructor (or designated person, such as a teaching assistant) in writing, with your name, id#, and e-mail contact. The grounds for Academic Consideration are detailed in the Undergraduate Calendar.

Drop Date

Students will have until the last day of classes to drop courses without academic penalty. The deadline to drop two-semester courses will be the last day of classes in the second semester. This applies to all students (undergraduate, graduate and diploma) except for Doctor of Veterinary Medicine and Associate Diploma in Veterinary Technology (conventional and alternative delivery) students. The regulations and procedures for course registration are available in their respective Academic Calendars.

Copies of Out-of-class Assignments

Keep paper and/or other reliable back-up copies of all out-of-class assignments: you may be asked to resubmit work at any time.


The University promotes the full participation of students who experience disabilities in their academic programs. To that end, the provision of academic accommodation is a shared responsibility between the University and the student.

When accommodations are needed, the student is required to first register with Student Accessibility Services (SAS). Documentation to substantiate the existence of a disability is required; however, interim accommodations may be possible while that process is underway.

Accommodations are available for both permanent and temporary disabilities. It should be noted that common illnesses such as a cold or the flu do not constitute a disability.

Use of the SAS Exam Centre requires students to book their exams at least 7 days in advance and not later than the 40th Class Day.

For Guelph students, information can be found on the SAS website.

Academic Integrity

The University of Guelph is committed to upholding the highest standards of academic integrity, and it is the responsibility of all members of the University community-faculty, staff, and students-to be aware of what constitutes academic misconduct and to do as much as possible to prevent academic offences from occurring. University of Guelph students have the responsibility of abiding by the University's policy on academic misconduct regardless of their location of study; faculty, staff, and students have the responsibility of supporting an environment that encourages academic integrity. Students need to remain aware that instructors have access to and the right to use electronic and other means of detection.

Please note: Whether or not a student intended to commit academic misconduct is not relevant for a finding of guilt. Hurried or careless submission of assignments does not excuse students from responsibility for verifying the academic integrity of their work before submitting it. Students who are in any doubt as to whether an action on their part could be construed as an academic offence should consult with a faculty member or faculty advisor.

Recording of Materials

Presentations that are made in relation to course work - including lectures - cannot be recorded or copied without the permission of the presenter, whether the instructor, a student, or guest lecturer. Material recorded with permission is restricted to use for that course unless further permission is granted.


The Academic Calendars are the source of information about the University of Guelph’s procedures, policies, and regulations that apply to undergraduate, graduate, and diploma programs.


Please note:  This is a preliminary web course description. The department reserves the right to change without notice any information in this description.  An official course outline will be distributed in the first class of the semester and/or posted on Courselink.