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Building Blocks of Matter


Admission Requirements

First-year courses Introduction to Modern Physics, Calculus, Linear Algebra, second-year courses Quantum Mechanics 1 & 2.


The Universe abounds with light and darkness. In this course, we focus on the light and what its spectral content can teach us about the elemental and molecular composition of the luminous objects (stars, clouds, etc.) in space. In order to answer this question we have to go beyond what we have learned in the Quantum Mechanics courses about the energy level structure of the Hydrogen atom and learn about multi-electron atoms and simple molecules. We will discuss the role of symmetries. We also investigate the course of atmospheric intransparency and its concomitant need for space-based telescopes. Finally, if time permits, we will study artificial atoms as single-photon sources for the quantum internet.

Course objectives

After completion of this course, you will be able to apply the rules of quantum mechanics to the structure and spectroscopy of atoms and simple molecules. With that knowledge you'll be able to critically analyse research papers involving spectroscopic data.

Soft Skills

By following this course you get a sense of how to make simplifying assumptions in complex problems and the use of hierarchy of energy and time scales.


The course is taught in the fall semester; it consists of lectures and problem-solving exercise classes.

Mode of instruction

Lectures by lecturer.

Assessment method



All relevant material will be published on blackboard.

Reading list

Reading material, in the form of a syllabus, will be provided as the course develops.


Contact details lecturer: Prof.dr. Eric Eliel