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Quantum Optics Lab: Biting off more than I can Chew?

  1. Apr 3, 2012 #1
    So, I am a freshman signing up for classes next year. I have only taken Physics I - Mechanics, and I am done with Calc III, and I have the opportunity to take a lab course on quantum optics. I am obviously not very prepared, but I have been exposed to surface level quantum concepts quite a bit (I just finished Niels Bohr's "Atomic Physics and Human Knowledge"), so I won't be completely lost. Also, I just talked to some advisors and they said that the class is not very mathematically rigorous. Because of all of this, I feel extremely inclined to dive into the class, as I am very passionate about physics and really want to get as far in as I can as fast as I can. Here is a course description so that you guys/girls can help me better judge this:

    This 4-credit hour laboratory course (3 hours per week) exposes students to cutting-edge photon counting instrumentation and methods widely used in nanooptics, quantum information, biotechnology and medicine. Major topics include quantum entanglement and Bell’s inequalities, single-photon interference, single-emitter confocal fluorescence microscopy and spectroscopy, nanoemitters, photonic bandgap materials, Hanbury Brown and Twiss interferometer, and photon antibunching.

    Thanks for any help!
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 3, 2012 #2
    I'm currently enrolled in an optics lab with a similar course description and I would not have done well freshman year (that isn't to say you won't). It's all up to you but first semester should be focused on getting accustomed to life at college - you don't want to overwhelm yourself. I'd recommend taking Physics II and some core requirements in the fall... you have all four years to take the upper level physics classes.
  4. Apr 3, 2012 #3
    Sorry about the miscommunication. I will be a sophomore. I should also add that I am interested because of the instrumentation I would be exposed to. I feel like it would be beneficial for applying to internships.
  5. Apr 3, 2012 #4
    I would suggest you don't, i was the same way and wanted to take advanced courses earlier to jump ahead and really get going with the real "meat" of physics work, and if your looking to go on to grad school later i think its best to slow it down, keep doing the normal stuff and not delve into the advanced stuff until your really prepared for it. You *can* do it as a sophmore probably if you struggle with it, but wouldnt you want to do it later and really learn it well and get a solid A? that would look and feel a helluva lot better.
  6. Apr 3, 2012 #5


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    As general advice , you may consider the option (if available) of sitting-in, and absorbing whatever you can.
  7. Apr 3, 2012 #6
    I agree with some of the others here. I'm a sophomore now, and I've got 5 credit hours of physics electives to take to finish my degree. I definitely sort of regret rushing through everything in terms of physics because I haven't had much time to really understand everything properly. I planned this all out in the beginning so that I could be competitive for research positions. That did me some good, yes, but I haven't learned everything as well as I would like to. I did make good grades, but I played the game. In hindsight, I've often felt a bit lost because I didn't have enough time to fully understand everything, and it's sort of turned me off of physics. I was extremely passionate about continuing with physics, as you are. It wasn't just this, it was a combination of things, but this certainly didn't help.

    For me, it turned out okay. I'm not going to be continuing in physics most likely, so it's given me time to relax, continue my research, and take classes outside of my degree program. If you're wanting to continue in physics, however, it's very important to have a solid foundation to work from. That will also help you when you take your PGREs.
  8. Apr 4, 2012 #7
    Thanks for all of the advice. It sounds like the consensus is that I should not take the course so quickly. There is another class that I need to take that is required for graduation, anyway, so I guess I will just take that. I am sure that E&M will be difficult enough to handle anyway.
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