Course Details

The SUPAEAQ: Experimental Atomic and Quantum Optics course provides graduate level training focused on providing the core knowledge needed for first year PhD students working in the fields of atomic physics, laser cooling and quantum optics. By the end of the course you should have the relevant knowledge in atomic physics, error analysis and electronics needed to get started in the lab as well as learning how to find relevant papers or useful information. The course places an emphasis on self-teaching, with relevant reference materials provided alongside the main lectures and will develop some basic practical computing for curve fitting and numerical solution of quantum master equations, with tutorial problems to reinforce the learning objectives. Whilst the focus is on experimental implementation, this course is also suitable for theorists.

The course runs for 10 weeks starting Monday 7th October 2019. Each week the background material will be covered in a one hour lecture/seminar at 2 pm Monday in JA3.26 after which homework problems will be allocated. These should be completed ready for a tutorial style session at 11 am on Friday morning LT715 where we will discuss the solutions to the problems and cover any issues or further questions raised over the course. We also encourage you to work together on the problems, and additionally some weeks there will be the opportunity to give small presentations to the rest of the cohort on assigned topics.

These tutorials form the formal assessment for the couse.

For further details, please contact Jonathan Pritchard or Paul Griffin.

Course Syllabus

  1. Introduction and Angular Momentum (JP) : Course overview and introductory angular momentum, ladder operators and Wigner coefficients.
  2. Atomic Structure (JP) : Energy levels, fine structure, hyperfine structure, isotope shifts, atomic lifetime
  3. Atoms in a magnetic field (PG) : Breit-Rabi, Larmor Frequency, Magnetic trapping, Biot-Savart and trap frequencies.
  4. Atom-Light Interactions (JP) : Two-level atom, Density matrix, Optical Bloch Equations, Lindblad Operator, Rabi Oscillations, Steady-state, saturation intensity and dispersion.
  5. Hot Atomic Media (PG) : Saturated absorption spectroscopy, Doppler broadening, Pressure Broadening.
  6. Atomic Magnetometry (SI) : Optical pumping, Larmor precession,sensitivity and applications.
  7. Atomic Clocks (JP) : Frequency standards, frequency comb, microwave atomic clocks, optical clocks.
  8. Laser Cooling (PG): Doppler Cooling, Magneto-Optical Trap (MOT), polarisation gradient cooling (PGC), Evaporative Cooling.
  9. Optical Dipole Trapping (JP) : AC Stark shift, calculation of polarizabilities for multilevel atoms, gaussian beam propagation, trap depths, optical lattices.
  10. BEC and Interferometry (PG) : Bose-Einstein Condensation, Matter wave interferometry and inertial sensing.
  11. Data Analysis (JP) : (Bonus lecture !)Error propagation, Chi-2 Distribution, Hypothesis Testing, fitting data and residuals, standard quantum limit and creating publication quality figures.

Useful Resources

As mentioned above, there is a strong emphasis on self-guided learning in this course and a number of references and textbooks will be recommended during the course. Below are a number of references for useful background reading. This is by no means exhaustive and will be supplemented during the course.

Reading List

  • C. J. Foot, Atomic Physics (OUP, Oxford, 2005)
  • D. Budker, D. Kimball and D. DeMille, Atomic physics: An exploration through problems andsolutions (OUP, Oxford, 2008)
  • I. G. Hughes and T. P. A. Hase, Measurements and their uncertainties (OUP, Oxford, 2010)
  • H. J. Metcalf and P. van der Straten, Laser Cooling and Trapping (Springer, New Yorx, 1999)
  • C. S. Adams and E. Riis, Laser Cooling and trapping of neutral atoms, Prog. Quant. Electron. 21, 1 (1997)
  • W. Ketterle and N. J. van Druten, Evaporative cooling of trapped atoms, Adv. Atom. Mol. Opt. Phys. 37, 181 (1996)
  • D. A. Steck, Alkali D line data
  • C. E. Wieman and L. Hollberg, Using diode lasers for atomic physics, Rev. Sci. Inst. 62, 1 (1991)
  • R. Grimm, M. Weidemuller, and Y. B. Ovchinnikov, Optical dipole trap for neutral atoms, Adv. At. Mol. Opt. Phys. 42, 170 (2000)
  • P. Horrowitz and W. Hill, The Art of Electronics (CUP, 1994)
  • NIST Atomic Spectra Database
  • Kurucz Atomic Database


During the course a number of homework problems will ask you to calculate, plot or fit equations or data. It is therefore necessary to identify a relevant programming language with which you can develop familiarity – our preference is for Matlab (available for free to install from – select Information Services tab, then Available licensed software) or Python (recommended download is Anaconda but you are welcome to use any other software as you see fit.

Regardless of your software preference, there are some two useful software packages available for Python which will be recommended for use in this course.

  1. QuTiP : (, an object-oriented quantum toolbox for Python which provides complex quantum mechanics problems to be coded and solved with a few lines of code and takes the complexity out of coding complex ODE solvers etc leaving you free to focus on the physics. Accompanying the toolbox are a fantastic set of ’Quantum Mechanics Lectures with QuTiP’ ( that provide relevant background theory integrated into a notebook alongside the code used to input the equations and generate plots.
  2. ElecSus : ( Developed by the group at Durham University, this powerful package calculates the optical susceptibility of alkali atoms in arbitrary magnetic fields and temperatures, and enables transmission data from a thermal cell to be fit to extract absolute frequency axis, temperature and atomic abundance.
  3. Alkali Rydberg Calculator (ARC) : ( Developed by JP in collaboration with the group at Durham University, this package calculates properties of alkali atoms including Stark shifts, matrix elements, lifetimes and atom-atom interaction potentials for Rydberg states. See online tutorial here.