PHYS 424/524: Classical and Modern Optics (Winter 2005)

Instructor: Daniel A. Steck
Office: 277 Willamette      Phone: 346-5313      email:
Office hours: W 3:00-4:00, F 2:00-3:00, and by appointment
Course home page:

Schedule: MWF 1:00-2:00, 318 Willamette
Course reference number: 27578 (424); 27732 (524)
Credits: 4
Prerequisites (PHYS 424): PHYS 351-2, MATH 281-2

Links: news, course notes, homework sets and keys, midterm feedback and comments.

Course overview

This course will provide a broad overview of geometric optics, wave optics, and laser physics. See the tentative syllabus below for a preliminary list of topics we will cover.

Recommended Text: Saleh and Teich, Fundamentals of Photonics
Supplementary Text: Catalog from Melles Griot (provided by instructor)
There are many other excellent standard optics texts that you may find useful for this course. You may wish to acquire some of these, or you may borrow these from the instructor on a short-term basis:


Grades for the course will be based on homework a mid-term exam, and a final exam. The relative weights will be as follows:

Homework: this is a homework-intensive course. Homework will be assigned weekly and each assignment will be due one week after it is assigned. Homework assignments will be accepted until 5 pm on the due date without penalty. Thereafter, late homework will be accepted, but at a 25% penalty for each day it is turned in late. Partial assignments may be turned in, and only the late portion will be penalized. The relative contribution of each homework assignment will depend on its difficulty.

Mid-term exam: I would like to have an evening exam in lieu of one of the usual class periods (to reduce time pressure). This is scheduled for February 10 at 7 pm instead of class on February 18. (Exam to be held in 318 Willamette.)

Final exam: The final exam will be held Thursday, March 17, 3:15-5:15, in 318 Willamette.

Computer access

Some of the homework will require access to a computer for basic calculations (in low-level languages such as C or Fortran, or any of several higher-level packages such as Mathematica, Maple, Matlab, Octave, Mathcad, etc.) and basic plotting (e.g., GNUplot, Excel, etc.). Contact the instructor as soon as possible if you do not already have access to such resources.


Monday Wednesday Friday
3 January
Ray Optics: Fermat's Principle
5 January
Ray Optics: Matrix Formalism
7 January
Ray Optics: Resonator Stability
10 January
Review of Electromagnetism
12 January
Review of Electromagnetism
14 January
Wave Optics: Interference and Interferometers
17 January
No Class: MLK Day
19 January
Wave Optics: Paraxial Wave Equation and Gaussian Beams
21 January
Wave Optics: ABCD Law for Gaussian Beams
24 January
Wave Optics: Hermite-Gaussian Beams
26 January
Wave Optics: Resonator Transmission
28 January
Wave Optics: Spherical-Mirror Resonator Modes
31 January
Laser Physics: Overview
2 February
Laser Physics: Gain Saturation
4 February
Laser Physics: Light-Atom Interactions
7 February
Laser Physics: Optical Gain and Pumping Schemes
9 February
Laser Physics: Output Characteristics
11 February
Polarization Optics: Jones Vectors
14 February
Polarization Optics: Fresnel Relations
16 February
Polarization Optics: Thin Films
18 February
No Class: Evening Midterm Instead
21 February
Polarization Optics: Birefringent and Active Media
23 February
Fourier Optics: Diffraction
25 February
Fourier Optics: Image Formation
28 February
Optical Media: Absorption and Dispersion
2 March
Optical Media: Kramers-Kronig Relations
4 March
Optical Media: Resonant Media and Pulse Propagation
7 March
Statistical Optics: Coherence
9 March
Statistical Optics: Interference and Visibility
11 March
Review and Evaluation