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PH4042   Concepts in Atomic Physics and Magnetic Resonance

Academic year(s): 2019-2020

Key information

SCOTCAT credits : 15

ECTS credits : 7

Level : SCQF Level 10

Semester: 2

Availability restrictions: Not automatically available to General Degree students

Planned timetable: 9.00 am odd Mon, 2.00 pm even Tues, 9.00 am Wed & Fri

This first half of the module builds on the atomic physics covered in PH4041 to look at the atomic structure of helium and many-electron atoms, magnetic interactions within the atom (leading to fine and hyperfine splitting), the Zeeman effect, and topics in atom-light interaction. The second half of the module provides an introduction to the main concepts of magnetic resonance, one of the most important probes of atomic structure, and a current research topic within the School. It will include an introduction to Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) , liquid state and solid-state Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR), Electron Spin Resonance (ESR) and Dynamic Nuclear Polarisation (DNP).

Relationship to other modules

Pre-requisite(s): The pre-requisite may be waived with special permission from the School.. Before taking this module you must pass PH4041

Anti-requisite(s): You cannot take this module if you take PH4037

Learning and teaching methods and delivery

Weekly contact: 3 lectures per week with total of 3 replaced by a tutorial

Scheduled learning hours: 32

Guided independent study hours: 118

Assessment pattern

As used by St Andrews: 2-hour Written Examination = 80%, Coursework = 20%

As defined by QAA
Written examinations : 80%
Practical examinations : 0%
Coursework: 20%

Re-assessment: Oral Re-assessment, capped at grade 7


Module coordinator: Professor G M Smith
Module teaching staff: Dr G Smith, Dr J Lovett, Dr D Cassettari

Additional information from school

Aims & Objectives

This module introduces the effects of magnetic fields on the energy levels of atoms, starting with the alkali atoms, but then generalizing the concepts to atoms with multiple electrons.  It will be discussed how these effects can be measured as well as their importance for modern concepts in atomic physics such as magnetic resonance and quantum optics.  It therefore serves to bridge between a basic knowledge of atomic physics established in PH4041 and modern research topics.


Learning Outcomes

By the end of the module, students will have a comprehensive knowledge of topics covered in the lectures and reading. In particular they will be able to:


  • Explain the influence of a magnetic field on the spectrum of an atom
  • Understand the interplay between spin-orbit coupling, hyperfine coupling and the magnetic field and their influence on the spectrum
  • How the energy spectrum of atoms with multiple electrons can be obtained, both qualitatively and quantitatively.
  • Understand the basic concepts and applications of magnetic resonance (EPR, NMR, MRI, DNP)
  • Explain the basic pulse sequences and experimental techniques used in magnetic resonance
  • Understand relaxation processes in magnetic resonance
  • Explain how NMR and EPR can be used to determine molecular structure and how MRI is used to provide medical imaging.



The material to be covered is planned along the following lines and timing, but may be subject to changes.

– Brief recapitulation of the spin-orbit coupling in alkali atoms. Interaction with an external magnetic field: the anomalous Zeeman effect.

– Probing the Zeeman effect of single atoms by STM. The Paschen-Back Effect

- Hyperfine structure of spectral lines.  From one electron to many-electron atoms: helium.

- L-S coupling in many-electron atoms and Hund’s rules. Numerical solution of the Schroedinger equation: the Hartree-Fock method

- Basic Concepts in magnetic resonance - spin, population, coherence, rotating frame, relaxation (T1 and T2).  CW and pulse techniques, Bloch equations

- Basic pulse sequences and liquid state NMR

- Solid state NMR, EPR and electron-electron interactions

- Hahn echoes, stimulated echoes,   Fourier transform concepts and introduction to 2-D techniques. Microscopic picture of relaxation

– Magnetic Resonance Instrumentation, and Concepts in MRI

- Electron-Nuclear Interactions and Dynamic Nuclear Polarisation (DNP)


Additional information on continuous assessment etc.

Most weeks of the semester extra reading will be set from classic papers or texts, or good websites.  This will be relevant to the material covered in the lectures.  Students will be asked on most weeks to answer questions on the readings or on the lectures, to test understanding and comprehension.  These will provide the marks for the continuous assessment.


Accreditation Matters

This module may not contain material that is part of the IOP “Core of Physics”, but does contribute to the wider and deeper learning expected in an accredited degree programme.  The skills developed in this module, and others, contribute towards the requirements of the IOP “Graduate Skill Base”.


Recommended Books

For the Atomic Physics part of the course - The Physics of Atoms and Quanta: Introduction to Experiments and Theory – H. Haken, W.D.Brewer 2005

For the Magnetic Resonance part of the course a variety of texts and reading material will be provided, but the Oxford Chemistry Primer “Electron Paramagnetic Resonance” by Chechik, Carter and Murphy is a good introduction.

Please view University online record:


General information

Please also read the general information in the School's honours handbook that is available via