I. Course Prefix/Number: PHY 230
Course Name: Optics
Credits: 4 (3 lecture; 3 lab)
III. Course (Catalog) Description
Course is designed to introduce students to the mathematics and applications of physical optics. Topics include the mathematics of waves, electromagnetic waves, photons, various ways that light interacts with matter, the principle of superposition, basic geometric optics, polarization, diffraction, interference and Fourier optics.
IV. Learning Objectives
After successful completion of this course, students should be able to do the following:
- Explain the basic issues in the field of optics, and discuss relevant topics related to optics including its influence in areas of astronomy, microscopy and photography.
- Describe wave motion, and mathematical representations of waves in various dimensions.
- Explain the electromagnetic theory of photons and light including the concepts of energy and momentum.
- Solve problems related to the processes by which light interacts with matter through scattering, reflection, refraction and absorption.
- Describe how light interacts with metals.
- Apply geometric optics including ray tracing, to solve problems for lenses, mirrors, prisms and stops.
- Apply the principle of superposition as to analyze problems with waves of equal or different frequency.
- Explain what it means for light to be polarized, how to create polarized light, and how to describe polarized light mathematically.
- Compare and contrast the conditions for interference, ways to create interference and applications of interference.
- Compare and contrast Fraunhofer and Fresnel diffraction.
- Solve problems using Fourier optics and Fourier Transforms.
V. Academic Integrity and Student Conduct
• plagiarism (turning in work not written by you, or lacking proper citation),
• falsification and fabrication (lying or distorting the truth),
• helping others to cheat,
• unauthorized changes on official documents,
• pretending to be someone else or having someone else pretend to be you,
• making or accepting bribes, special favors, or threats, and
• any other behavior that violates academic integrity.
There are serious consequences to violations of the academic integrity policy. Oakton's policies and procedures provide students a fair hearing if a complaint is made against you. If you are found to have violated the policy, the minimum penalty is failure on the assignment and, a disciplinary record will be established and kept on file in the office of the Vice President for Student Affairs for a period of 3 years.
Please review the Code of Academic Conduct and the Code of Student Conduct, both located online at
VI. Sequence of Topics
- Wave Motion
- 1-, 2-, and 3-dimensional waves
- Harmonic waves
- Electromagnetic Theory, Photons and Light
- Review of basic laws
- Energy and Momentum
- Light in Matter
- The Electromagnetic Spectrum
- Propagation of Light
- Reflection and Refraction
- Fermat’s Principle
- Total Internal Reflection
- Optical Properties of Metals
- Geometric Optics
- Lenses, Stops, and Mirrors
- Fiber optics
- Thick Lenses
- Ray Tracing
- Superposition of Waves
- Waves of Equal Frequency
- Waves of Different Frequency
- Anharmonic Waves
- Polarized Light
- Polarizers, Dichroism and Birefringence
- Scattering and Polarization
- Polarization by Reflection
- Optical Activity
- Wavefront and Amplitude Splitting
- Multiple-Beam Interference
- Fraunhofer and Fresnel Diffraction
- Kirchhoff’s Theory
- Fouier Optics
- Fourier Transforms and Diffraction
Laboratory activities may include, but are not limited to:
- Computer-based ray tracing
- Telescope Optics
- Aberration of lenses
- The Michelson Interferometer
- Fresnel’s relation
- Diffraction gratings
- Fourier Optics and analysis with computers
- Polarization of light
- Optical properties of select liquids
- Fiber optics
VII. Methods of Instruction
Lecture, demonstration, problem solving, cooperative learning, and discussion methods will be used throughout the course. In addition, laboratory demonstrations and hands-on activities will be performed, and selected videos may be shown.
Course may be taught as face-to-face, hybrid or online course.
VIII. Course Practices Required
- The required readings will include the textbook, laboratory manual, and selected material supplied by the instructor.
- Mathematics and problem solving will be emphasized. Differential and integral calculus will be used throughout the course. A review of these skills may be necessary. Students should be aware that such a review might be needed and should seek appropriate assistance. Students will be expected to use a hand‑held scientific calculator throughout the course.
- Laboratory practice includes correct setup of the apparatus, performing the experiment, collecting and analyzing the data, and submitting a write-up as required by the instructor. Students are required to locate, retrieve and replace all needed lab equipment at designated places and clean up the work area before leaving.
- Students will be expected to write at least four laboratory reports. The instructor will determine the experiments that will be written up.
- Team work is encouraged and needed for efficient lab work.
- Safe work practices, as established by the instructor, must be strictly followed by all students.
IX. Instructional Materials
Text: Optics, Hecht, Fourth edition, Addison Wesley, 2002.
Lab activity handouts produced by Oakton Community College’s Department of Physics will be available electronically.
Calculator: Any Scientific Calculator. However, the instructor may require a specific calculator to be used during quizzes and exams.
X. Methods of Evaluating Student Progress
This may vary by instructor. In general, methods of evaluation will include tests and quizzes that include an opportunity for students to demonstrate problem solving ability and conceptual understanding of the material. Homework will be assigned, but its inclusion in the student’s grade may vary by instructor. Lab write-ups will be required but their format and weight on the student’s grade may vary by instructor.
XI. Other Course Information
Attendance policy is determined by the instructor.
Tutoring services are available through the Learning Center.
If you have a documented learning, psychological, or physical disability you may be entitled to reasonable academic accommodations or services. To request accommodations or services, contact the Access and Disability Resource Center at the Des Plaines or Skokie campus. All students are expected to fulfill essential course requirements. The College will not waive any essential skill or requirement of a course or degree program.
Oakton Community College is committed to maintaining a campus environment emphasizing the dignity and worth of all members of the community, and complies with all federal and state Title IX requirements.
Resources and support for
- pregnancy-related and parenting accommodations; and
- victims of sexual misconduct
Resources and support for LGBTQ+ students can be found at www.oakton.edu/lgbtq.
Electronic video and/or audio recording is not permitted during class unless the student obtains written permission from the instructor. In cases where recordings are allowed, such content is restricted to personal use only. Any distribution of such recordings is strictly prohibited. Personal use is defined as use by an individual student for the purpose of studying or completing course assignments.
For students who have been approved for audio and/or video recording of lectures and other classroom activities as a reasonable accommodation by Oakton’s Access Disabilities Resource Center (ADRC), applicable federal law requires instructors to permit those recordings. Such recordings are also limited to personal use. Any distribution of such recordings is strictly prohibited.
Violation of this policy will result in disciplinary action through the Code of Student Conduct.