Physics 137a

Physics 137a

Atoms and Photons

Fall 2021

Click here for the official course website (Caltech access only, unfortunately)

Physics 137ab is a two term course studying the interactions of atoms and photons. In the first term, we will study atomic structure and the interaction of atoms with classical electromagnetic fields. In the second term, taught by Prof. Manuel Endres, the electromagnetic field will be treated quantum-mechanically to learn about quantum optics.

137a Topics include: resonance phenomena, atomic/molecular structure, and the interaction of atoms/molecules with static and oscillating electromagnetic fields; techniques such as laser cooling/trapping and precision measurement; applications to contemporary research such as atomic clocks, searches for fundamental symmetry violations, and synthetic quantum matter, and other research occurring right here at Caltech. A more detailed course outline can be found below.

Instructor: Nick Hutzler. Email hutzler(at) with any questions, or if you would like to learn more.

Prerequisites: Graduate quantum mechanics (such as Ph 125), or instructor's permission.

Lectures are Tuesdays and Thursdays, 10:30-11:55 AM.

Approximate course outline. Feel free to make suggestions!

Two-level systems and resonance. Classical and quantum magnetic resonance, rotating frames.

Atomic structure. Hydrogenic atoms, electronic structure, fine and hyperfine structure, multi-electron atoms.

Atoms in static fields. Zeeman and Stark effects, angular momentum coupling schemes.

Atoms in alternating fields. Einstein A and B coefficients, dipole approximation, Optical Bloch Equations, saturation, cross sections, broadening, M1/E2 transitions.

Cooling and trapping. Laser cooling, cryogenic/supersonic/thermal beams, laser slowing, magneto-optical trapping, dipole trapping, magnetic/electric trapping.

More complex systems. Raman transitions, adiabatic elimination, atomic clocks, STIRAP, EIT/CPT, fundamental symmetry violations and searches for new physics, optical lattices.