615.782.81 - Optics and Matlab

Applied Physics
Spring 2024


This course provides hands-on experience with MATLAB by performing weekly computer exercises revolving around optics. Each module explores a new topic in optics, while simultaneously providing experience in MATLAB. The goal is to bridge the gap between theoretical concepts and real-world applications. Topics include an introduction to MATLAB, review of electromagnetism, ray tracing, 1D Fourier theory and propagation in optical fibers, laser beam propagation, paraxial wave propagation in turbulent media, diffraction and holography, polarization and interferometry, optical waveguides and laser theory and related technologies. Students are expected to complete a semester project that will facilitate investigation of a topic of interest not specifically covered in the course. Course Note(s): No prior experience with MATLAB is required. While a background in optics is helpful, it is not required.


Profile photo of William Torruellas.

William Torruellas


Course Structure

The course materials are divided into modules which can be accessed by clicking Course Modules on the course menu. A module will have several sections including the overview, content, readings, discussions, and assignments. You are encouraged to preview all sections of the module before starting. Most modules run for a period of seven (7) days, exceptions are noted in the Course Outline. You should regularly check the Calendar and Announcements for assignment due dates.

Course Topics

The topics of the course cover the following areas in Optics and MatLab:

  1. Optics: Review of Electro-Magnetism, The wave equation and refractive index as the response to an optical field
  2. Optics: Ray tracing and Fermat's theorem
  3. Optics: Gaussian beams: modes of laser cavities
  4. Optics: Fiber Optics, Modes of Optical Waveguides and Optical Fiber Amplifiers
  5. Optics: The wave-Equation as a Linear-Shift-Invariant System
  6. Optics: Pulse propagation in an optical fiber
  7. Optics: Optical properties of the atmosphere
  8. Optics: Propagation in the atmosphere with thermal blooming
  9. Optics: Compensation with adaptive optics of aberrations due to atmospheric turbulence
  10. Optics: Scalar Diffraction and image processing
  11. Optics: Interferometry
  12. Optics: High Power Laser technology

Course Goals

The principal goal of this class is to familiarize the student with the use of MATLAB in solving modern optical problems. The student will become familiar with MATLAB, its environment and its tools and gradually be able to independently solve an optics problem with MATLAB. A secondary goal of the class is for students to interact with all members of the class and not just the instructor. Homework laboratories are assigned on a bi-weekly basis to facilitate the interaction between students and a semester long project also is designed to foster a team solving environment. 

Course Learning Outcomes (CLOs)


Siegman, A. E. (1986). Lasers. Sausalito, CA: University Science Books. 

ISBN-10: 0935702113 

ISBN-13: 978-0935702118 


Other Materials & Online Resources

Additional reading material as well as examples of MatLab code are provided in most modules 

Required Software

Available for free to JHU students. Please visit this site: https://support.cldt.jhu.edu/hc/en-us/articles/360036314791-Accessing-Matlab-at-JHU

Student Coursework Requirements

  1. Discussions (10% of final grade) - Weekly discussion with prompts provided. An opportunity to engage with your peers around course topics. Grading rubric for discussions posted at the top of the Discussion Forum page.
  2. Labs/Assignments (35% of final grade) - Seven labs using the MATLAB application, labs run over 2-3 weeks each.
  3. Final Exam (15% of final grade) - take home exam to be completed independently, distributed in module 11, due module 14
  4. Course (Team) Project (40% of final grade) - Deliverables in modules 5, 7, 8, 10, 13, and 14. Details for the project are provided in module 2.

Academic Policies

Deadlines for Adding, Dropping and Withdrawing from Courses

Students may add a course up to one week after the start of the term for that particular course. Students may drop courses according to the drop deadlines outlined in the EP academic calendar (https://ep.jhu.edu/student-services/academic-calendar/). Between the 6th week of the class and prior to the final withdrawal deadline, a student may withdraw from a course with a W on their academic record. A record of the course will remain on the academic record with a W appearing in the grade column to indicate that the student registered and withdrew from the course.

Academic Misconduct Policy

All students are required to read, know, and comply with the Johns Hopkins University Krieger School of Arts and Sciences (KSAS) / Whiting School of Engineering (WSE) Procedures for Handling Allegations of Misconduct by Full-Time and Part-Time Graduate Students.

This policy prohibits academic misconduct, including but not limited to the following: cheating or facilitating cheating; plagiarism; reuse of assignments; unauthorized collaboration; alteration of graded assignments; and unfair competition. Course materials (old assignments, texts, or examinations, etc.) should not be shared unless authorized by the course instructor. Any questions related to this policy should be directed to EP’s academic integrity officer at ep-academic-integrity@jhu.edu.

Students with Disabilities - Accommodations and Accessibility

Johns Hopkins University values diversity and inclusion. We are committed to providing welcoming, equitable, and accessible educational experiences for all students. Students with disabilities (including those with psychological conditions, medical conditions and temporary disabilities) can request accommodations for this course by providing an Accommodation Letter issued by Student Disability Services (SDS). Please request accommodations for this course as early as possible to provide time for effective communication and arrangements.

For further information or to start the process of requesting accommodations, please contact Student Disability Services at Engineering for Professionals, ep-disability-svcs@jhu.edu.

Student Conduct Code

The fundamental purpose of the JHU regulation of student conduct is to promote and to protect the health, safety, welfare, property, and rights of all members of the University community as well as to promote the orderly operation of the University and to safeguard its property and facilities. As members of the University community, students accept certain responsibilities which support the educational mission and create an environment in which all students are afforded the same opportunity to succeed academically. 

For a full description of the code please visit the following website: https://studentaffairs.jhu.edu/policies-guidelines/student-code/

Classroom Climate

JHU is committed to creating a classroom environment that values the diversity of experiences and perspectives that all students bring. Everyone has the right to be treated with dignity and respect. Fostering an inclusive climate is important. Research and experience show that students who interact with peers who are different from themselves learn new things and experience tangible educational outcomes. At no time in this learning process should someone be singled out or treated unequally on the basis of any seen or unseen part of their identity. 
If you have concerns in this course about harassment, discrimination, or any unequal treatment, or if you seek accommodations or resources, please reach out to the course instructor directly. Reporting will never impact your course grade. You may also share concerns with your program chair, the Assistant Dean for Diversity and Inclusion, or the Office of Institutional Equity. In handling reports, people will protect your privacy as much as possible, but faculty and staff are required to officially report information for some cases (e.g. sexual harassment).

Course Auditing

When a student enrolls in an EP course with “audit” status, the student must reach an understanding with the instructor as to what is required to earn the “audit.” If the student does not meet those expectations, the instructor must notify the EP Registration Team [EP-Registration@exchange.johnshopkins.edu] in order for the student to be retroactively dropped or withdrawn from the course (depending on when the "audit" was requested and in accordance with EP registration deadlines). All lecture content will remain accessible to auditing students, but access to all other course material is left to the discretion of the instructor.