Syllabus: Atomic, Molecular and Condensed Matter Physics, Phy491, Fall 2009

Credits: Total Credits: 3 Lecture/Recitation/Discussion Hours: 3 Prerequisite: (PHY 471 and PHY 410) and completion of Tier I writing requirement Description: Many-electron atoms. Molecules, crystal structure, lattice dynamics. Band models of metals and semiconductors. Transport properties.

INSTRUCTOR: Carlo Piermarocchi, room 4263 Biomedical & Physical Sciences, Telephone: 884-5631 Email: Office hours: Wednesday 10:30am-12:30am. Call or email to schedule an appointment at other times.

Text: Textbook: Ashcroft and Mermin, Solid State Physics (any edition). Additional reading from review papers and books in the library will be recommended during the lectures.

Course Structure: 3 meetings per week on Monday, Wednesday and Friday: 1:50pm to 2:40pm. Room 1308 BPS.

The schedule of the lectures is here.


PART I (Atomic and Molecular Physics) Review of Hydrogen atom; Center of mass-relative motion separation for two body problem; Coulomb units; Excitons and other hydrogenic systems; Variational approach; Relativistic Effects in H; Many electron atoms and the Periodic Table; Hund’s rules; Magnetic properties of atoms; Larmor diamagnetism; Paramagnetism; Van Vleck paramagnetism; Born-Oppenheimer approximation; H2+ molecule; Molecular orbitals; Hund-Mulliken and Heitler-London for H2; Electronic configuration of biatomic molecules.

PART II (Solid State Physics): Crystal Lattices, BCC, FCC, Bravais Lattices; Wigner Seitz unit cells; Hexagonal lattices; Lattices with basis; Reciprocal Lattice; Brillouin Zone; X-Ray Scattering; Ewald’s construction; Structure Factors; Bloch’s theorem; Crystal Momentum; Band folding; Nearly free electrons; Metals and insulators; Tight binding; Density of states; Classic Harmonic Crystal; Quantum Harmonic Crystal; Einstein and Debye Models for specific Heat; Transport properties; Semiconductors; Semiconductor Nanostructures; Classical and Quantum Hall effect.



Individual Homework: We will give out individual homework problems during the semester. There will be credit for the homework - problem sets will be available at least a week before they are due. The worst 2 homework assignments will not count towards your final grade.

Group assignments: The course is organized in the Problem Based Learning format. Students are required to be engaged in group activities and take control of their learning process during the class and in meetings outside the class. The groups are composed by 4 students and will be formed by the instructor. To find out your group see here. Group assignments will count towards your final grade (group grade).

Midterm Exams: There will be three midterm exams, on Wed September 30th, on Wed November 4th and on Fri December 4th. If you miss one of the midterms and provide a valid excuse (a written note from a doctor, dean etc.) the grade of that midterm will be equal to the average of the other two.

Final Project: The final project consists in an essay on one Atomic/Molecular/Condensed Matter Physics topic that has not been covered in detail in the class. You will have to find the material for your project through the library or the internet. The textbook can be a good starting point, and the instructor will be available as a resource. Verbatim quotations from online sources should be properly cited, as the essays may be scanned for online plagiarism. The list of possible topics is the following:


Essays must be limited to 3 pages including figures (one inch margin, no less than 1.5 line spacing, no less than 11pt font). Essays must be submitted to the instructor in electronic format (.pdf or .doc) by Wed Dec 9th at 5 pm and will be anonymously posted online so you can learn about the other topics by reading the essays of your peers.

Final Grades: Grades are based on the following formula:



First Midterm


Second Midterm


Third Midterm


Group Work




Final Project




The guaranteed scale may be lowered in your favor but not raised is:

Total point percentage

Final grade