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Free Online Course on Atomic and Optical Physics

Massachusetts Institute of Technology is offering free online course on Atomic and Optical Physics: Optical Bloch Equations and Open System Dynamics. This physics course presents a general derivation of the master equation and the optical Bloch equations.

In this 4 week course, applicants will learn about the Optical Bloch equations and their solutions with applications to open system dynamics. This Course will start on April 12, 2017.

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Course At A Glance 

Length: 4 weeks
Effort: 10-12 hours pw
Subject: Physics
Institution: Massachusetts Institute of Technology and edx
Languages: English
Price: Free
Certificate Available: Yes, Add a Verified Certificate for $49
Session: Course Starts on April 12, 2017

Providers’ Details

Massachusetts Institute of Technology — a coeducational, privately endowed research university founded in 1861 — is dedicated to advancing knowledge and educating students in science, technology, and other areas of scholarship that will best serve the nation and the world in the 21st century. Learn more about MIT. Through MITx, the Institute furthers its commitment to improving education worldwide.

About This Course

This physics course presents a general derivation of the master equation and the optical Bloch equations. You will learn about various solutions of the optical Bloch equations, and you will discuss the quantum Monte Carlo wave function approach. The course will conclude with a discussion of unraveling open-system quantum dynamics.

Why Take This Course?

Completing the series allows you to pursue advanced study and research in cold atoms, as well as specialized topics in condensed matter physics. In these five courses you will learn about the following topics:

  • Quantum states and dynamics of photons
  • Photon-atom interactions: basics and semi-classical approximations
  • Open system dynamics
  • Optical Bloch equations
  • Applications and limits of the optical Bloch equations
  • Dressed atoms
  • Light force
  • Laser cooling
  • Cold atoms
  • Evaporative cooling
  • Bose-Einstein condensation quantum algorithms and protocols
  • Ion traps and magnetic traps.

Learning Outcomes

  • The derivation of the master equation
  • The derivation of the Optical Bloch equation
  • Solutions of the Bloch equations
  • The Monte Carlo wave function approach
  • Unraveling open-system quantum dynamics


Wolfgang Ketterle

Wolfgang Ketterle has been the John D. MacArthur professor of physics at MIT since 1998. He received a diploma (equivalent to master’s degree) from the Technical University of Munich (1982), and the Ph.D. in physics from the University of Munich (1986).

David E. Pritchard

David E. Pritchard is the Cecil and Ida Green Professor of Physics at MIT. He carried out pioneering experiments on the interaction of atoms with light that led to the creation of  the field of atom optics. Professor Pritchard received his B.S. from California Institute of Technology and his Ph.D. from Harvard, working with Professor Daniel Kleppner, through his move to MIT. Pritchard joined the faculty of the Department of Physics in 1970.

Isaac Chuang

Isaac Chuang is a professor of Physics and a professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at MIT. His research focuses on quantum information and quantum computation. Professor Chuang leads the NSF IGERT on Interdisciplinary Quantum Information Science and Engineering at MIT.


A two-semester sequence in Quantum Mechanics at the level of MIT 8.05 and 8.06.

How To Join This Course

  • Go to the course website link
  • Create an edX account to SignUp
  • Choose “Register Now” to get started.
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