Physics 137a

Physics 137a

Atoms and Photons

Fall 2023

Official course website will be posted when it is available.

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: atomic structure, the interaction of atoms with static and oscillating electromagnetic fields, and resonance phenomena; 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.

Approximate course outline.

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.

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

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.