Atomic and Molecular Physics (PHYS*4120)

Code and section: PHYS*4120*01

Term: Fall 2018

Instructor: Michael Massa


Course Information

Calendar Description

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

Class Schedule and Location


Day Time Location
Tuesday,Thursday 8:30 to 9:50 am ALEX 309 (after first lecture, will move to MACN 318)

Midterm and Final Exam

The midterm is tentatively set for the evening of Tuesday October 16th, room and time TBA.
The final exam will be Friday December 14th, 7-9pm, room TBA.

Course Instructor

Lecturer Office Email
Michael Massa 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 Weight Scheme 2 Weight
Assignments 20% 20%
Quizzes 10% 10%
Midterm 30% 20%
Final Exam 40% 50%

Learning Resources

Course Website

The course website can be found by logging into

Required Materials

The Fundamentals of Atomic and Molecular Physics, by R.L. Brooks, Springer 2013.


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.

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: Commutator 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.

Collaboration versus Copying

Students are encouraged to discuss with each other during work on the problem assignments. However, the work that you submit as your assignment must not be a copy of someone else’s work – you must be able to present solutions such that they reflect your own understanding. Identical scripts will be given a mark of zero and plagiarism will be dealt with severely. Proper citations should be provided when books and other articles are used in your work. Please do not hesitate to speak with your instructor if you are unsure of the integrity of your own actions – before submitting your work.


E-mail 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. See the undergraduate calendar for information on regulations and procedures for Academic Consideration.

Drop Date

The last date to drop one-semester courses, without academic penalty, is Friday November 2nd, 2018. For regulations and procedures for Dropping Courses, see the Undergraduate Calendar.

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 of Guelph is committed to creating a barrier-free environment. Providing services for students is a shared responsibility among students, faculty and administrators. This relationship is based on respect of individual rights, the dignity of the individual and the University community's shared commitment to an open and supportive learning environment. Students requiring service or accommodation, whether due to an identified, ongoing disability or a short-term disability should contact Student Accessibility Services (SAS) as soon as possible.

For more information, contact SAS at 519-824-4120 ext. 56208 or email or see the website:

Academic Misconduct

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 discourages misconduct. 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.

The Academic Misconduct Policy is detailed in the Undergraduate Calendar.

Course Evaluation

The Department of Physics requires student assessment of all courses taught by the Department. These assessments provide essential feedback to faculty on their teaching by identifying both strengths and possible areas of improvement. In addition, annual student assessment of teaching provides part of the information used by the Department’s Tenure and Promotion Committee in evaluating the faculty member's contribution in the area of teaching.

The Department's teaching evaluation questionnaire invites student response both through numerically quantifiable data, and written student comments. In conformity with University of Guelph Faculty Policy, the Department’s Tenure and Promotions Committee only considers comments signed by students (choosing "I agree" in question 14). Your instructor will see all signed and unsigned comments after final grades are submitted. Written student comments may also be used in support of a nomination for internal and external teaching awards.

Note: No information will be passed on to the instructor until after the final grades have been submitted.

Recording of Materials

Presentations which are made in relation to course work—including lectures—cannot be recorded or copied without the permission of the presenter, whether the instructor, a classmate 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 which apply to undergraduate, graduate and diploma programs.