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PHYS 517 A: Quantum Mechanics

TTh 9:30am - 10:50am / PAA A114
F 10:30am - 11:20am / PAA A114
Stephen R. Sharpe

Syllabus Description:

Prof. Steve Sharpe (

Tu Th 9:30-10:50 &  F 10:30-11:20 PAB A114

Office hours: Tu 1.15 - 2pm, Th 4-5pm (if you wish to zoom, please email; link will be

TAs: Isaac Shelby ( & Zeeshawn Kazi (

TA office hours: Th F 3-4pm in person in physics lounge (backup zoom link is

Welcome to PHYS 517! This is the first quarter of the year-long graduate QM sequence. For information about texts, homeworks, exams and grading see Course Information Phys 517 (which is also on the "Pages" link). 

The schedule below is that followed last year, and may be slightly changed this year. We will adapt and update as we progress through the quarter. 

Holidays this quarter that occur during lecture time are Veteran's day (Thursday Nov 11) and Thanksgiving (Thursday/Friday Nov. 25/26th).

Classes will be in person, following the UW safety measures (see below). A small silver lining of Covid is that all the lectures that I gave last year were on zoom and recorded. If you click on one of the lectures below (or through the Calendar) you will find a Panopto link to the recording, as well as a link to the pdf of the lecture notes. The lecturing on the recording begins after some number of minutes, and I indicate to where to jump. Thus you can watch (and rewatch!) the lectures at your leisure (and 1.5x speed seems to work quite well). 

This situation allows an attempt to partially "flip" the class. Updated (10/8/21): I will cover the essential results in the lecture notes, but not go through derivations (which you can read in the notes, or watch on the recorded lectures), replacing them with exercises sprinkled throughout. My hope is that there will be discussion of exercises between students, and then with the whole class. I expect that some of these quasi-lectures will end early, and any remaining time will be for office hours in the lecture hall. 

Watching the recorded lecture beforehand is recommended, although past experience suggests that some students prefer to wait until they are working on the HWs. It is up to you.

Depending on how this flipped method works, I will tweak the details as we proceed.


My aim this quarter is to cover Sakurai & Napolitano (SN) Chapters 1 & 2, with additional material included as needed. The general topics that I aim to  cover are listed below. Note that I will not follow SN's development or order precisely. 

  • Postulates of QM using Stern-Gerlach experiment and spin as a prototypical example.
  • Quantum kinematics: Inner-product spaces; Dirac notation; Operators; Unitary Transformations; Standard measurement theory.
  • Continuous various: x, p . Wave packets.
  • Time evolution; Schrödinger and Heisenberg representations.
  • Simple harmonic oscillator. Parity operator. Coherent and squeezed states.
  • 1-dim Schrödinger problems, bound and unbound.
  • WKB approximation and relation to Hamilton-Jacobi equation in classical mechanics.
  • Path integral representation of QM
  • Electric and magnetic fields. Gauge invariance and Aharanov-Bohm effect.

The detailed lecture-by-lecture coverage will emerge as the quarter progresses. I plan to post detailed lecture notes before each lecture; these can be accessed from the daily links below.

Covid-19 Safety Measures (for more information see FaceCoveringS21FINAL4.pdf)

It is important for all of us to do our part to minimize the spread of COVID-19. An important part of working to keep our community safe is the University of Washington COVID-19 Face Covering Policy. This policy requires all members of the UW community to wear a face covering when in the classroom or indoors space, regardless of vaccination status. The UW encourages all students to take responsibility for following public health guidelines, being aware of COVID-19 information and steps for minimizing the spread of the virus. You can support the Husky Experience by wearing a mask and by getting vaccinated, if you haven’t already. Don’t forget to attest to your vaccination status. Eating and drinking will not be permitted in class. For those who choose not to wear face coverings please talk with your academic advisor about possible distance learning options for taking classes at UW. Further information on COVID-19 practices and resources can be found here. 

Code of Conduct (excerpted from Physics Department Code of Conduct)

``Creating a supportive environment to foster academic and scientific progress and ensuring that all members of the department have access to a safe working and learning environment is a collective responsibility.  Should unprofessional or inappropriate actions or comments be observed or experienced, direct intervention calling attention to the problematic behavior is often the best response.  If that does not feel appropriate or safe, one should contact Physics Student Services, one’s supervisor, the Physics Ombud, and/or SafeCampus to help determine and effect an appropriate response.''

As appropriate, please feel free to bring up issues with me, either in person, by email, or via an anonymous  comment.

UW student code of conduct is here.

Religious Accommodations

Washington state law requires that UW develop a policy for accommodation of student absences or significant hardship due to reasons of faith or conscience, or for organized religious activities. The UW’s policy, including more information about how to request an accommodation, is available at Faculty Syllabus Guidelines and Resources. Accommodations must be requested within the first two weeks of this course using the Religious Accommodations form,  available here.

Catalog Description: 
First of a three-part sequence. Modern non-relativistic quantum mechanics developed, beginning with its basic principles. Dirac and abstract operator notation introduced, starting with simple examples. Offered: A.
Section Type: 
Last updated: 
April 19, 2021 - 10:11pm