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Physics: Phy 211

PHY 211: Fundamentals of Quantum Mechanics I

This is the first of a two course sequence designed for senior undergraduate and beginning graduate students whose aim is to develop a strong foundation in the formalism and application of quantum mechanics. We begin by reviewing the shortcomings of classical physics, wave-particle duality and elementary quantum theory. After introducing some useful mathematical tools, we explain the postulates of quantum theory. The remainder of the course focuses on developing an understanding of these postulates through applications, starting with pedagogical examples and building up to simple real physical systems such as the Hydrogen atom. The course is taught at a level so that students who have mastered the material in the two course sequence are prepared for graduate study in physics.

General Information

Prerequisites: MTH 104, MTH 111, PHY 142L or their equivalent.
Class Meetings:
Instructor: Thomas Mehen
  • Office: Room 204-C, Physics and Mathematics Building
  • Phone: 660-2555
  • Email: mehen@phy.duke.edu
  • Office Hours: Monday 3:30 - 4:30 pm, Tuesday 9:50 - 10:50 am, or by appointment
Teaching Assistants:
    Le Luo
  • Office: Room 249, Physics and Mathematics Building
  • Phone: 660-2493
  • Email: leluo@phy.duke.edu
  • Office Hours: Wednesday 1:30 -3:30 pm
Recitation Session:
    There will be a recitation session, run by one of the T.A.'s, every Friday at 4 pm in Room 113, Physics and Math Building. The purpose of this session is primarily to go over solutions to the homework problems, but the T.A.'s will answer other questions students have about material covered in the course. Students are encouraged but not required to attend.
Main Text: R. Shankar, Principles of Quantum Mechanics.
Recommended Reading:
There are many good texts on Quantum Mechanics. If you are seeing this material for the first time, it may be confusing at times, especially when attempting to do the problem sets. When stuck it is very useful to consult other books. The following books are recommended and have been placed on reserve at the Science and Engineering Library:
  • D.J. Griffiths, Introduction to Quantum Mechanics. This book is elementary but very accessible. Students who find other texts difficult may want to try looking at this book.
  • Cohen-Tannoudji, Diu and Laloe Quantum Mechanics, Vol I. This classic text is an excellent reference. Chapters are supplemented with numerous examples and physics applications.
  • R. L. Liboff, Introductory Quantum Mechanics. A very good book at the level of the main text.
  • J. J. Sakurai, Modern Quantum Mechanics. This excellent book assumes some previous exposure to quantum theory. It has treatments of topics like Bell's inequalities, Berry's phase, and Coulomb scattering not found in most undergraduate texts.
  • R. Feynman, The Feynman Lectures on Physics, Vol. III. This is an older book but fun to read.
Grades: Grades will be assigned according to the following weighted average:
  • Problem Sets: 40%
  • Two Midterms: 15% each
  • Final exam: 30%
  • Definite dates for the midterm have not been set. One midterm should be near the first week in October, the second around the first week of November.
  • Final Exam Time: Monday, December 8, 9 am-12 pm.
  • A link to the problem sets is at the bottom of this webpage. Problem Sets will be assigned every Thursday and are due the following Thursday. Solutions will be posted shortly thereafter.
  • No Late Problem Sets will be accepted!
  • You are encouraged to discuss the homework assignments with fellow students so that you can learn the subject from each other. However, the written part of the homework assignments must be done individually.
  • Course webpage as well as email will be used to disseminate information on problem set corrections, class schedule emergencies, etc.
  • All exams will be closed book. Formulae needed for the exams will either be provided or are expected to be memorized by the student.


  • Waves vs. Particles: Inadequacies of Classical Physics
  • Review of Elementary Quantum Physics
  • Mathematical Tools: Linear Algebra, Differential Equations
  • The Dirac Notation
  • Postulates of Quantum Mechanics
  • Time Evolution: Schrodinger Equation
  • Applications to Two Level Systems
  • Applications to the 1d Harmonic Oscillator
  • Other Simple One Dimensional Problems
  • Bound States vs. Scattering States
  • Higher Dimensions: Angular Momentum Theory
  • Symmetries and Conservation Laws
  • The Hydrogen Atom

Homework Assignments

  • Problem Sets (2002)
  • Problem Sets (2003)