PHYS 402 :: Physics Illinois :: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Course Description

Physics 402 is a comprehensive course on the fundamentals of (mainly) classical optics, covering concepts in geometric optics and action principles, matrix techniques for ray tracing, mechanics of classical waves with emphasis on energy and momentum, radiation, light in matter and optical dispersion, polarization effects such as birefringence, wave packets, optical modulators such as phase retarders, interferometry, Kirchhoff and Fresnel theories of diffraction, nonlinear optics, holography, and basic concepts in quantum optics.

This course is aimed at advanced undergraduates and graduate students in Physics, Chemistry, Materials Science, and other areas of science or engineering, who plan to pursue research or a career in optics or who simply are interested in deepening their knowledge of the subject. The purpose of this course is not to teach all of optics, which could never be covered in a single course, but to cover the foundations of the subject in enough depth to prepare you for any area of specialization.


Optics, 4th Edition, Eugene Hecht


Please read the assigned sections in the text before class (see schedule). Lectures are inspired by the text, but will take a different treatment of some of the topics.


Assigned every Wednesday and due in the 402 drop box by midnight the subsequent Wednesday. Late homework will not be accepted unless prearranged with the course director.


Every student will perform five distinct lab experiments, plus one optional sixth lab. Each lab takes two or three sessions (i.e., 2-3 weeks) to complete. The first two labs are required and are on geometric optics: A1. Aberrations and A2. Compound telescope. The last three may be chosen from a group of 15 or so others. The labs are a real treat and a chance for you to see a real-life manifestation of topics we discuss in lecture.

An acceptable lab writeup should have the following components:

  1. Abstract: Single paragraph on the purpose and conclusions of the experiments performed in the lab. Please do not plagiarize the purpose/introduction sections from the lab manual.

  2. Apparatus/Instrument: Should include a diagram of the experimental set up with the critical components labeled. Explain the basic principles behind how the instrument works.

  3. Procedure: Write down what you did, for example how you aligned the instrument, samples you made, and data you took. If it isn't immediately clear (as judged by your lab TA) where the measurements you report came from you may not receive credit for the lab.

  4. Results and Discussion: Present raw data, graphs, calculations. Show one clear example calculation if you have to compute a value based on the measurements. Include units. If there was a pre-lab, include answers at the beginning of this section. Did your results match what you expect? What were the sources of error? Can the experiment be improved?

The lab writeup should be about 5-10 pages in length, which is once a diagram of the apparatus, the raw data, and the calculations are included, is a lot less space than you might think. Labs are pass/fail, and you pass as long as you made a "good faith" effort to complete the lab, and your lab report demonstrates a reasonable understanding of what happened. 


The Midterm is a 90 min exam and takes place in class (see schedule). The final is 180 min (date and time TBA). Both exams are open book and may be taken with the assistance of any print materials associated with the course, including the text, homework, lecture notes., etc.. Laptops, smartphones, iPods, iPads, Android tablets, satellite phones, GPS, Apple TVs, and anything else electronic you can think of, are not permitted.