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

Course Description

In this course we will cover the fundamentals of classical optics and key applications. Covered topics include geometrical optics and action principle, ray transfer matrix analysis, light in matter and optical dispersion, polarization effects, wave packets, interferometry, Kirchhoff, Fresnel and Fraunhofer theories of diffraction and holgraphy. Other advanced topics, such as nonlinear optics and basic concepts in quantum optics, will be studied if time permits

This course is aimed at advanced undergraduate 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 to cover the foundations of optics in enough depth to prepare you for any area of specialization.


Optics, 5th Edition, Eugene Hecht

The textbook is highly recommended. Lectures are inspired by the text, but in certain topics we will take a different approach and in some cases go beyond the textbook.

The book is available in an electronic version, but you cannot use electronic text in the exams.


Lectures will be given in Loomis Laboratory 276 Tuesday and Thursday 11:00AM-12:20PM.

Prelecture notes will be posted in the schedule section of the course website before each lecture to allow students to prepare for the lecture and/or for use during the lecture. The final version of the lecture notes will be posted after each lecture.


The homework will be posted in the schedule section of the course website, and a notifying email will be sent. Homework submission is via Gradescope to the portal "Phys 402 Homework".
Please upload completed homework by the due date and time, which will be indicated in the homework file. Gradescope will not accept submissions after the deadline; late submissions must be prearranged with the course director. There will be 12 Homework assignments, out of which the 10 best will be used to calculate the final grade. Homework solutions will be posted in the schedule section.

Note that exam questions will be written with the assumption that students know how to solve all of the homework problems!


Experiments are performed in pairs. Every pair performs five distinct lab experiments: the first two labs are mandatory expeirments in geometrical optics: A1–Optical Characteristics of a Telescope, and A2–Lens Aberrations. Students then perform three additional experiments of their choice from different topics. Each lab takes 2-3 sessions (i.e., 2-3 weeks) to complete.

Various experiments in the labs use lasers that can be harmful if not used correctly; you will need to comlete the laser safety training on the DRS (Division of Research Safety) website

An acceptable lab writeup should have the following components:

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.

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.

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.

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?

Please submit lab writeusp by uploadeding them using Canvas to the assignement "Submit lab report #?".
Writeups should be about 5-10 pages in length, which, 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 submission deadline for each Lab Report is 2 weeks after you finish the exepriment.

More information can be found in the Introduction page under the Lab Materials section.


The Midterm exam will take place during class time (see schedule). The final is 180 min (date and time TBA). The exams are open book and may be taken with the assistance of any printed material associated with the course, including the text, homework, lecture notes, etc.. Calculators are also allowed. Any other electronics is not allowed. You will NOT be allowed to access ELECTRONIC copies of any material.

If you have accommodations identified by the Division of Rehabilitation-Education Services (DRES), please schedule your exams with DRES Testing Accommodations Center (TAC) at the closest possible times to the scheduled times. If you are not planning on using the TAC, please email your Letter of Accommodations (LOA) to the course instructor (see Contact information) with an explanation of your needs.

Office Hours

Please refer to the Contact information section for office hours