Optics: Fundamentals and Applications (PHYS*3000)

Code and section: PHYS*3000*01

Term: Winter 2021

Instructor: John Dutcher


Course Information

This course introduces physics students to the rich world of the fundamental concepts and ubiquitous applications of optics. Following a short introduction to oscillations and waves, the course will focus on electromagnetic wave phenomena. Throughout the course, applications of the fundamental concepts will be emphasized.


Professor John Dutcher
MacN 451
ext 53950

John's research focuses on using a broad range of experimental nanotools, including many optical techniques, to study the fundamental soft matter and biological physics of systems with real world applications. For more information, visit the Dutcher Lab webpage.


Monday, Wednesday, Friday
1:30 – 2:20
via Zoom

Calendar Description

This course will introduce students to the fundamental principles of wave and geometric optics, with an emphasis on applications. Topics will include reflection, refraction, diffraction, interference, and polarization, as well as fiber optics, imaging systems and lasers.


PHYS*2340 Electricity and Magnetism II
PHYS*3130 Mathematical Physics

Required Textbook

  • E. Hecht, Optics, Fifth Edition (Cambridge Press, 2015)

Course Topics

  1. Oscillations and waves: forced, damped oscillators; coupled oscillators; transverse waves on a string; wave equation; traveling and standing waves; wave dispersion; phase velocity; group velocity
  2. Electromagnetic waves: Maxwell’s equations; wave equation; dispersion of light; impedance; energy and irradiance
  3. EM waves at interfaces: Fresnel equations; Brewster’s angle; total internal reflection; evanescent waves; energy transmission and reflection
  4. Geometric optics: Fermat’s principle; real and virtual objects and images; thin lens equation; imaging with lenses; compound thin lenses; optical instruments
  5. Polarization: linear, circular and elliptical polarization; polarizers; Malus’ law; dichroism; birefringence; production of polarized light; wave plates; optical activity; Jones calculus
  6. Interference of light: principle of superposition; temporal and spatial coherence; interference fringes; interferometers (Michelson, Fabry-Perot); matrix method; antireflection coatings
  7. Fraunhofer diffraction: single-slit diffraction, diffraction from rectangular and circular apertures, resolution, double-slit diffraction, diffraction gratings
  8. Fresnel diffraction: near field effects; Fresnel zone plate; Cornu spiral
  9. Fourier Optics: Fourier series; Fourier transforms; spatial filtering
  10. Lasers: energy levels, population inversion, stimulated emission, laser cavity modes

Course Learning Objectives

This course will present new concepts and build on concepts covered in previous physics courses. The objectives of this course are:

  1. Introduce physical concepts and mathematical tools used to describe optical phenomena
    • Develop an intuition for optical phenomena through plotting of functions
  2. Relate the mathematical results to physical phenomena, practical applications and experiments
    • Develop an appreciation of the mathematical basis for experimental optical techniques
  3. Develop scientific communication skills
    • Develop the ability to explain solutions to complex problems


Assessment Weight
Quizzes 10%
Problem Assignments 20%
Midterm Test
Tues Mar 2, 19:00 – 21:00
Final Exam
Wed Apr 21, 8:30 – 10:30
Total 100%

Quizzes will be held in class, typically on alternate Fridays. The problem assignments are due at the beginning of class on the due date. Late submissions will be accepted within one day, with a 20% late penalty. Marks will be deducted for errors in English grammar and spelling in all work submitted for grading. Students must obtain a final grade of 50% to pass the course.

Respondus LockDown Browser and Monitor

  • For both the Midterm Test and the Final Exam, you must use the Respondus LockDown Browser and Monitor (webcam) within CourseLink. You must download and install LockDown Browser and Monitor to complete the practice test and course exam(s). The purpose of the practice test is to ensure that Respondus LockDown Browser and Monitor is set up properly and that you are comfortable using the software.
  • Respondus LockDown Browser is a locked browser connected to the Quizzes tool in CourseLink. It prevents you from printing and copying, using other operating software, using search engines (e.g., going to another URL), communicating via instant messaging, and it blocks nonweb- related software (e.g., Adobe PDF, Microsoft Word).
  • Respondus Monitor is a companion application for LockDown Browser that uses webcam and video technology to ensure academic integrity during online exams. The software captures video during the exam and allows the instructor to review the video once the exam is completed.
  • To use Respondus LockDown Browser and Monitor, you must meet the technical requirements. Visit the Remote Learning website for guidance on preparing your online exam environment.
  • If you have any concerns about meeting system requirements, contact CourseLink Support. They will work with you to find alternative solutions or make alternative arrangements.

Course Policies

The University will not require verification of illness (doctor's notes) for the Winter 2021 semester. See the undergraduate calendar for information on regulations and procedures for Academic Consideration.

CourseLink Page

There is a PHYS*3000 CourseLink page to allow you easy access to course related material and to connect to the Zoom lectures.


Short questions can often be handled after lectures. Hours will be announced when John will be available for consultation with students via Zoom. He will make every effort to answer emails in a timely manner.

Drop Date

The last date to drop one-semester courses, without academic penalty, is Monday April 12th, 2021. See: regulations and procedures for Dropping Courses, see the Undergraduate Calendar.

Recording of Materials

Presentations which are made in relation to course work—including lectures— cannot be recorded or copied without the permission of the presenter, whether the instructor, a classmate or guest lecturer. Material recorded with permission is restricted to use for that course unless further permission is granted. Unless there is an objection, the instructor will record the Zoom lectures and make them available to the students on the CourseLink page.


The University of Guelph is committed to creating a barrier-free environment. Providing services for students is a shared responsibility among students, faculty and administrators. This relationship is based on respect of individual rights, the dignity of the individual and the University community's shared commitment to an open and supportive learning environment. Students requiring service or accommodation, whether due to an identified, ongoing disability or a short-term disability should contact Student Accessibility Services (SAS) as soon as possible.

For more information, contact SAS at 519-824-4120 ext. 56208 or email accessibility@uoguelph.ca or see the website: https://wellness.uoguelph.ca/accessibility/

Academic Misconduct

The University of Guelph is committed to upholding the highest standards of academic integrity and it is the responsibility of all members of the University community – faculty, staff, and students – to be aware of what constitutes academic misconduct and to do as much as possible to prevent academic offences from occurring. University of Guelph students have the responsibility of abiding by the University's policy on academic misconduct regardless of their location of study; faculty, staff and students have the responsibility of supporting an environment that discourages misconduct. Students need to remain aware that instructors have access to and the right to use electronic and other means of detection.

Please note: Whether or not a student intended to commit academic misconduct is not relevant for a finding of guilt. Hurried or careless submission of assignments does not excuse students from responsibility for verifying the academic integrity of their work before submitting it. Students who are in any doubt as to whether an action on their part could be construed as an academic offence should consult with a faculty member or faculty advisor.

See the Undergraduate Calendar for information on the Academic Misconduct Policy.

Collaboration Versus Copying

Scientists often consult fellow scientists to discuss their research problems. Collaboration between scientists is often essential to perform world-class research. However, no ethical scientist would ever publish or claim the work of others as his or her own. Instead, joint publication or acknowledgements of the contributions of their collaborators is given.

The work that you submit for marking must be your own and not a copy of someone else's work. As a young scientist, you are encouraged to discuss with your fellow students as you learn the material and work on your assignments and presentations. However, plagiarism is a form of academic misconduct, and will not be tolerated. In your work that you submit for marking, you are encouraged to cite references and acknowledge discussions with others who have helped you to achieve an understanding of the material. This is good scientific practice.

Student Assessment

The Department of Physics requires student assessment of all courses taught by the Department. These assessments provide essential feedback to faculty on their teaching by identifying both strengths and possible areas of improvement. In addition, annual student assessment of teaching provides part of the information used by the Department Tenure and Promotion Committee in evaluating the faculty member's contribution in the area of teaching.

The Department's teaching evaluation questionnaire invites student response both through numerically quantifiable data, and written student comments. In conformity with University of Guelph Faculty Policy, the Department Tenure and Promotions Committee only considers comments signed by students (choosing "I agree" in question 14). Your instructor will see all signed and unsigned comments after final grades are submitted. Written student comments may also be used in support of a nomination for internal and external teaching awards.

No information will be passed on to the instructor until after the final grades have been submitted.


Please note that the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic may necessitate a revision of the format of course offerings and academic schedules. Any such changes will be announced via CourseLink and/or class email. All University-wide decisions will be posted on the COVID-19 website and circulated by email.