spring 2021
KJE-3101 Quantum Chemistry - 10 ECTS

Last changed 25.02.2021

Application deadline

Applicants from Nordic countries: 1st of June for the autumn semester and 1st of December for the spring semester. Applicants from outside the Nordic countries: 1st of October for the spring semester and 15th of April for the autumn semester.

Type of course

Theoretical course. The course is available as a singular or elective course independent of study program, also to exchange students. The course is offered on condition that a minimum number of students register for the course.

Admission requirements


  • A bachelor’s degree in chemistry or equivalent, with a grade C or better in the Norwegian grading system.
  • Basic physical chemistry (i.e KJE-1005 or equivalent).
  • Basic knowledge in calculus (i.e. either MAT-0001 or MAT-1001).


  • Expanded knowledge in physical chemistry (i.e KJE-2001 or equivalent).
  • Basic knowledge in physics (elementary classical mechanics and electromagnetism).
  • Calculus 2 and elementary linear algebra (i.e MAT-1002 and MAT-1004 or equivalent).

Søknadskode 9336 enkeltemner i realfag.

Course overlap

K-210 Theoretical chemistry 10 stp

Course content

At the beginning of last century, Physics was a well-established science. Its main foundations were two kind of fundamental entities:

  • particles were the basic constituents of matter, obeyed the Newton¿s equations of motion and were the subject of Mechanics
  • electromagnetic waves were the interpretative tools for light-related phenomena in a broad sense.

Chemistry on the other hand was still in its infancy: even the existence of atoms (Dalton’s theory) was still debated!

The advent of quantum mechanics (QM) shook physics at its foundation by showing that a particle and a wave could be two manifestation of the very same physical object and it was merely a matter of which one was more apparent and/or useful in a given context. Additionally, it provided a crucial link between Physics and Chemistry: atoms and molecules (whose existence was finally accepted by the scientific community at large) are so small that the particle-wave duality cannot be ignored to explain their behavior and their fundamental properties.

The goal of the present course is to present the foundation of QM in a rigorous albeit simple way in order to show how it is nowadays employed in the modeling of atoms and molecules.

The course will start by introducing the axiomatic foundations of QM. Its postulates will be presented by showing their implication for the description and interpretation of physical phenomena at atomic and molecular level.

The postulates will then be employed on simple models such as the particle in a box and the harmonic oscillator. The latter, which has relevant implications for chemistry (e.g. molecular vibrations and  description of photons) will be covered in detail, by making use of the ladder-operator formalism. We will later consider rotational motion, which is the basis to understand the shape of atomic orbitals, the electron spin, the structure of atomic spectra. The last "exact" model we will cover is the hydrogen atom by deriving its wavefunctions, thus showing the meaning of all four quantum numbers assigned to electrons in atoms: we will see how this description allows to interpret the spectrum of the hydrogen atom (almost) fully: the missing details will be touched upon but their full explanation requires relativity which is covered in another course (KJE-3104).

Exactly solvable models provide a good starting point to show the features of many-electron atoms and molecules. However, real systems are far more complex and in order to treat them properly a range of tools needs to be employed: Group theory will allow to extract as much information as possible from a system by the investigation of its symmetry properties; for systems that cannot be solved exactly, one can make use of perturbation theory, which assumes that the deviations from the exact system are small and hence yield small deviation from the ideal behavior; in its time-dependent version, perturbation theory provides the framework to interpret atomic and molecular spectra; the Born-Oppenheimer approximation allows to separate nuclear and electronic motion and Hartree-Fock theory can be employed to obtain the simplest yet quite accurate description of the electronic structure of an atom or a molecule.

Objectives of the course

The student will have acquired a solid and broad theoretical basis to understand quantum chemistry. This means that the student


  • can illustrate the postulate of quantum mechanics (wave functions and the state of a system, operators and observables, measurements and probability, the Schrödinger's equation and time evolution)
  • can explain group theory (symmetry elements, definition of a group, group representations, orthogonality theorems, characters)
  • can present time-independent and time-dependent perturbation theories
  • can show how the Born-Oppenheimer approximation leads to the separation of electronic and nuclear motions
  • can recognize the limitations of the B-O approximation and show when it is applicable and when it does not hold
  • can show how the variation principle can be used to find optimal solutions for electronic structure problems



  • can derive the wavefunction of exactly solvable models such as the particle in the box, the harmonic oscillator (using ladder operators), the hydrogen atom.
  • can apply group theory to make predictions about structure and properties of atoms and molecules on the sole basis of their intrinsic symmetry
  • can employ time-independent perturbation theory to interpret features of atomic spectra and explain anharmonic deviation in vibrational spectra of molecules
  • can employ time-dependent perturbation theory to explain transition between states and resonance effects
  • can show how molecular orbitals are obtained based on the time-independent Schrödinger equation of molecular systems
  • can derive the Hartree-Fock equations from the variation principle
  • can recognize the presence of symmetry in atoms and molecules in order to take advantage of it
  • can identify small components of a Hamiltonian operator and set up the framework for their perturbative treatment
  • can employ time-dependent perturbation theory to explain the band structure of atomic and molecular spectra
  • can show how molecular vibrations are connected to the Born-Oppenheimer approximation through the molecular electronic structure



  • Can make use of quantum mechanics to independently interpret physical phenomena at the microscopic scale
  • Can connect molecular properties and spectra to the necessary quantum chemical modeling required to compute them

Language of instruction

The language of instruction is English and all syllabus material is in English.

Teaching methods

Lectures: 30 h

Seminars/exercises: 30 h


A final oral exam at the end of the course (duration approximately 60 min). Letter grades A-E, F-fail.

Students who have not passed the last ordinary exam may re-sit the oral exam the following semester.


  • About the course
  • Campus: Tromsø |
  • ECTS: 10
  • Course code: KJE-3101
  • Undersider