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Please help me decide which class to take.

  1. Jul 25, 2008 #1
    I will be a junior in physics this fall. I am done with all undergraduate level classical mechanics, E&M and quantum mechanics courses. I think I want to do experimental physics. I have been working under an AMO physics professor whose research is about ultracold atoms and quantum optics. I have been building electronic apparatuses for the experiment and laying out circuit boards most of the time, nothing closely related to physics yet. I definitely want to go to a good grad school. Meanwhile, I don't think I have a solid grasp of the materials from my physics classes, especially E&M and quantum, since I didn't push myself at all and only got by doing only the minimum work needed to get good grades on the homework and exams, which were not difficult at all.

    So this is my situation, now I want to decide which class to take between the two:

    ECE 455 Optical Electronics

    Subject Area: Microelectronics and Quantum Electronics
    Course Prerequisites: Credit in ECE 450 or PHYS 436 (this is the second semester of E&M with Griffiths' book)
    Description: Overview of laser and optical systems with emphasis on optical beams and resonant laser cavities; characteristics of typical lasers (gas, solid state and semiconductor); and application of optical devices.
    Goals: To introduce the student to the generation, propagation, and detection of optical electromagnetic waves.

    * Optical beams and cavities: Review of electromagnetics, ray tracing, ABCD matrix, stable cavities, Gaussian beams, resonant cavities
    * Interaction of Photons and Matter: Blackbody radiation, Einstein coefficients, lineshape functions, gain, absorption, saturation
    * Basic Laser Theory: Threshold gain, laser oscillation, steady-state and dynamic systems, Q-switching, mode-locking
    * Laser Systems: 3- and 4-level lasers, rare-earth-ion lasers, broad-band-gain, tunable lasers, gas discharge lasers
    * Nonlinear processes and harmonic generation
    * Semiconductor lasers: Review of semiconductor fundamentals, absorption, gain, oscillation, optical modes
    * Final project presentation

    Texts: J. T. Verdeyen, Laser Electronics, 3rd ed., Prentice-Hall.
    References W. Silfvast, Laser Fundamentals
    A. Yariv, Optical Electronics

    PHYS 580 Quantum Mechanics I , this is first year graduate level course on quantum mechancis

    Second course in quantum mechanics for students with a good background in wave mechanics and atomic and molecular structure. Operators, state vectors, and the formal structure of quantum theory; operator treatments of simple systems; angular momentum and vector addition coefficients; stationary state perturbation theory; introduction to scattering theory for particles without spin, partial wave analysis, and Born approximation; examples taken from atomic, nuclear, and elementary particle physics. Prerequisite: PHYS 485 or PHYS 487.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 25, 2008 #2


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    Personally, I'd go for the optical electronics course. The reason being that the quantum course is a grad level course and likely you'll have the opportunity to take a similar verison of it in whatever graduate school you go to. The optical electronics course seems a little more practical and if you end up doing grad studies at a school where they don't have that kind of expertise, the opportunity would be lost.
  4. Jul 25, 2008 #3
    So, you go to UIUC? I took Eden's class when I went there, but I didn't take Physics 580. However, I did take the undergraduate QM sequence at UIUC and a graduate QM class while in grad school, so I'm probably fairly qualified to help you. I know this is kind of early, but what are your goals for grad school?
  5. Jul 25, 2008 #4
    I agree with Choppy. Also, that's very standard quantum material - no matter where you actually go to grad school, you'll learn it.

    Take the optical electronics course; it's a unique opportunity.
  6. Jul 28, 2008 #5
    Well, it turns out ECE 455 Optical Electronics is in conflict with my PHYS 460 Condensed Matter physics. I was really leaning toward taking ECE 455 after hearing you guys' advice. But unfortunately, it seems that I won't be able to.

    Unless I drop condensed matter physics and take ECE 455 instead? Then I would have only one physics class left next semester (or two, depending on my second question), PHYS 401 Classical Lab. After all, I am a physics major. I should take physics classes as my priorities right? And I think condensed matter is a pretty important subject, right? Manchot, I do go to UIUC. I want to get into experimental physics. For grad school, right now, I am somewhat interested in applied physics or areas of physics that has the potential to be applicable, so I probably will not consider high energy or astrophysics.

    Another side question that is kind of unrelated.
    Say if I am going to take math methods in the physics dept. which covers PDE, should I still take PDE in the math department.

    Does this course

    PHYS 508
    Mathematical Physics I

    Core techniques of mathematical physics widely used in the physical sciences. Calculus of variations and its applications; partial differential equations of mathematical physics (including classification and boundary conditions); separation of variables, series solutions of ordinary differential equations and Sturm-Liouville eigenproblems; Legendre polynomials, spherical harmonics, Bessel functions and their applications; normal mode eigenproblems (including the wave and diffusion equations); inhomogeneous ordinary differential equations (including variation of parameters); inhomogeneous partial differential equations and Green functions; potential theory; integral equations (including Fredholm theory). Topics are illustrated with realistic physics problems; a broad range of illustrative examples are explores; applications are emphasized. Prerequisite: MATH 241 or MATH 380; MATH 285

    allow me to skip this course,

    MATH 442
    Intro Partial Diff Equations

    Introduces partial differential equations, emphasizing the wave, diffusion and potential (Laplace) equations. Focuses on understanding the physical meaning and mathematical properties of solutions of partial differential equations. Includes fundamental solutions and transform methods for problems on the line, as well as separation of variables using orthogonal series for problems in regions with boundary. Covers convergence of Fourier series in detail. 4 hours of credit requires approval of the instructor and completion of additional work of substance. Prerequisite: One of MATH 284, MATH 285, MATH 286, MATH 441.
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