Module Information

Module Identifier
Module Title
From Molecules to Elementary Particles
Academic Year
Intended for use in future years
Other Staff

Course Delivery

Delivery Type Delivery length / details
Seminars / Tutorials 0 seminars, 4 tutorials


Assessment Type Assessment length / details Proportion
Semester Assessment Course work, 4 example sheets  20%
Semester Assessment Test, end of semester 1  20%
Semester Exam BSc 2 hours , MPhys 3 hours end of module exam  60%

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this module students should be able to:

  1. classify the states of single and multielectron atoms
  2. perform vector addition of angular momentum using LS or jj coupling schemes
  3. predict allowed transitions in atoms from selection rules
  4. calculate electron energy level shifts in a magnetic field
  5. predict the rotational and vibrational spectra of polyatomic molecules
  6. describe the structure of nuclei
  7. explain the stability of nuclei
  8. identify the salient properties of elementary particles
  9. summarise the experimental evidence underlying the Standard Model


The fundamental structure of matter, from molecules through atoms, nuclei to elementary particles is of fundamental importance to the understanding of nature and its interactions. at this stage in their course, students have a suffiient background knowledge of quantum theory to enable them to study modern theories of the structure of matter in depth.

Brief description

This module will look at the structure of molecules, atoms, nuclei and elementary particles chiefly through the medium of spectroscopy. Theoretical models of these building blocks of matter will be developed and experimental techniques employed to investigate their structure will be discussed.


Spectroscopy of the hydrogen atom - gross, fine, and hyperfine structure. Orbital and spin angular momentum in hydrogen. Spin-orbit coupling. Many electron atoms - indistinguishability and the Pauli Exclusion Principle. LS and jj-coupling. Hund's rules.
Optical selection rules in atoms. Alkali and rare earth spectra. Helium and configuration interaction. Zeeman effect - space quantisation. Hyperfine structure - nuclear spin. Rydberg states.

Born-Oppenheimer approximation. Rotational, vibrational and electronic spectra of diatomic and polyatomic molecules. Instrumentation.

The nucleus as a physical system; the nuclear energy well. Nuclear Coulomb repulsion energy. Beta decay process as an example of weak interactions. Mirror nuclei and charge symmetry of nuclear forces. Stability of nuclei and radioactive decay. Nuclear scattering experiments. Nuclear reactions. The "Fermi gas" and "Liquid Drop" models of nuclear matter. Structural properties of nuclei. The Shell Model of the nucleus. Symmetry, statistics and parity. Nuclear fission and fusion.

Historical development. The Standard Model, quarks and leptons. From quarks to hadrons. The fundamental forces of nature - electromagnetic, strong force and colour change, weak force and gravity. Probing elementary particles - linear and circular accelerators, particle detectors.

Module Skills

Skills Type Skills details
Application of Number All questions set in tests, example sheets and formal exams have numerical problems
Communication Written communication is developed via lecture assignments
Improving own Learning and Performance Formative assessments are used in order that students might reflect on their progress during the module
Information Technology Students will be expected to research topics within the module via the internet
Personal Development and Career planning The module will highlight the latest research in this fields and hence will develop, to an extent, career development.
Problem solving Problem solving is a key skill in physics and this wil be tested via lecture problem sheets and in formal examination at the end of the module
Research skills Students will be set problems in lectures which will entail research in library and over the internet


This module is at CQFW Level 6