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Seeking Advice: Starting to Study Quantum Mechanics (and Statistical Mechanics)

  1. Nov 13, 2014 #1
    Dear Physics Forum personnel,

    I am a undergraduate sophomore with double majors in microbiology and chemistry. I have been involving in two research laboratories: theoretical physical chemistry (focused on inorganic chemistry & solid-state physics) and pathogenic bacteriology. I actually just started to work in that theoretical chemistry group, which involves a lot of quantum/statistical mechanics and computational/programing methods. I decided to self-study the quantum mechanics first and later dive into statistical mechanics since I think statistical mechanics requires a basic knowledge in QM (please correct me if I am wrong; can I study both of them simultaneously?); I have been searching for the introductory textbooks on QM, such as Griffiths, Susskind, Feynman (Lecture Volume 3), Shankar, Sakurai, Ballentine, Zettili, Townsend, etc. I want to pick two QM introductory textbooks and self-study them. Could you recommend two QM textbooks that complement each other well (i.e. one is very-detailed and another one has a good explanation, etc.)? The price of textbooks is not a problem for me since I have a textbook scholarship. Both my mentor and professor told me that any QM book of my choice will be fine since most of the research in that theoretical physical chemistry group are computational and programming.

    I have a following mathematical background (mostly computational; not proof-based): single-variable and multi-variable calculus (including vector calculus), linear algebra, differential equations (ODE & PDE), and fourier analysis. I have a good knowledge from Apostol's Calculus Volume 1 but I did not start the Apostol's Calculus Volume 2 yet (planning to start on Winter Break). I am wondering if those mathematical principles are suitable for studying the quantum mechanics.

    I will be taking a modern physics course called "Modern Physics: Atomic, Relativistic, and Quantum Mechanics" that uses a textbook called "Modern Physics" by Tipler on next semester. On next year's Fall, I will be taking two courses called "Thermodynamics & Statistical Mechanics" and "Quantum Mechanics I", which use "Fundamentals of Statistical and Thermal Physics" by Reif Waveland and "Modern Quantum Mechanics" by J.J. Sakurai, respectively. Could you also recommend any introductory thermodynamics-statistical mechanics textbook that goes well with Reif's one?

    Thank you very much for your time, and I look forward to your advice!


  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 14, 2014 #2


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    Staff: Mentor

    Some of the books you mention, like Sakurai and Ballentine, are not introductory. You want to start with somthing more basic. Many people like Griffiths' textbook. Considering your background, I would suggest you start with Molecular Quantum Mechanics by Atkins and Friedman, which provides both an introduction to QM and threats molecules in detail, which you won't find in usual introductory QM books. You can complement with Griffiths or my personal favorite, Quantum Mechanics by Cohen-Tannoudji, Diu, and Laloë.

    You will definitely need to know about eigenvalue equations, which is in the second volume of Apostol, but you might have covered it already in Linear Algebra. Otherwise, you have all that you need to start QM.

    I don't know Waveland's book, but I good basic introduction to the subject is Thermal Physics by Schroeder. And as I said above, Sakurai is an intermediate textbook. It would be good to have some knowledge of QM before tackling Sakurai.
  4. Nov 14, 2014 #3


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    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper

    Cohen-Tannoudji's book has a wealth of information, however the presentation is not linear, with those supplements to what he considers the text's main body which make it hard to read. I'd consider that a reserve option and go for Zettili's text as a main source.
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