Winter 2020

Course Information


Physical Optics is a course about light or electromagnetic waves. We cover wave propagation, polarization, interference, diffraction, and selected topics in modern optics. You are expected to be familiar with the material covered in the Paradigm on Oscillations and Waves (PH 424) and the Capstone on Electromagnetism (PH 431). The general philosophy is to ask as many questions as possible, and be an active participant in classes; it's more fun for all of us that way! I expect you to have read the assigned material before class. I do not intend to repeat detailed derivations in the text, but you are still required to understand them. Read widely - other texts present the same material in a different way and also give other examples.

Lecture times: MWF 10:00 - 10:50 in Weniger 304

Course Work:
Student Learning Outcomes:

Students shall be able to:

Graduate students (PH 581) shall in addition to the above be able to:
Office Hours:

David McIntyre

Weniger 311

MW 11-12

Course Evaluation:

PH 481: Final exam 35%. Midterm exam 25%. Labs 20%. Homework 20%.
PH 581: Final exam 35%. Midterm exam 25%. Labs 15%. Homework 15%. Paper 10%
FINAL: Tuesday, March 17, 9:30 am, Weniger 304

PH 581 Paper

A short paper on a topic of your choosing is required. It can be an extension of a problem assigned in class or of a physical phenomenon discussed in class or lab. The paper should be handed in and presented as a 10-minute talk on the final day of class. A topic should be proposed in writing by February 8. The level of effort expected is approximately equivalent to 1-2 week's homework. Some guidelines should help avoid pitfalls. If any member of the PH 481 class is interested in this option, please talk to me.

Students with Special Needs:
Accommodations for students with disabilities are determined and approved by Disability Access Services (DAS). If you, as a student, believe you are eligible for accommodations but have not obtained approval please contact DAS immediately at 541-737-4098 or at DAS notifies students and faculty members of approved academic accommodations and coordinates implementation of those accommodations. While not required, students and faculty members are encouraged to discuss details of the implementation of individual accommodations.

Student Conduct Expectations:
All students are expected to uphold the highest standards of honesty and integrity in their academic work. Any incidence of academic dishonesty will be dealt with in accordance with OSU policies. Further info is available in the OSU Code of Student Conduct:

Reach Out for Success:
University students encounter setbacks from time to time. If you encounter difficulties and need assistance, it's important to reach out. Consider discussing the situation with an instructor or academic advisor. Learn about resources that assist with wellness and academic success at If you are in immediate crisis, please contact the Crisis Text Line by texting OREGON to 741-741 or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

If you have comments or suggestions, email me at

Last Update: 12/19/19

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© David McIntyre, Department of Physics, Oregon State University, 2019.