2012 BFY Abstract Detail Page

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Abstract Title: Teaching optics with a focus on innovation
Abstract: For many years, the Lawrence University physics department taught a theory-based junior/senior level course in optics.  The course did not prepare students very well for work in modern optics, nor did it provide much intuition for understanding optical instrumentation, techniques, and phenomena.  So in 2010, the department rebuilt the optics course around labs: in a ten-week term, the revamped course now includes ten 70 minute lectures and twenty 3+ hour lab sessions.  In this talk, I will describe the rationale for the new course structure (eight "canned" labs, ranging from imaging through aberrations to Fourier optics, four "challenge" labs that focus on a telescope, a white-light Michelson interferometer, interferometric metrology, and spatial light modulator (SLM) based spatial filtering, and finally a four-session final project) as well as the labs themselves and student results from the first two offerings of the redesigned course.  At their best, we find that students are learning to predict, prototype, and learn from both success and failure.  Of the fourteen students who completed the course, seven have gone on to summer research work involving optics, and 4/11 graduates have gone on to PhD research that draws considerably upon optics.
Abstract Type: Invited Presentation
Invited Presentation: Download the Invited Presentation

Author/Organizer Information

Primary Contact: Doug Martin
Lawrence University
and Co-Presenter(s)
Shannon O'Leary, Lewis and Clark