Advanced Optics Laboratory

Spring 2024 PHYS 476/477/302L


Tonmoy Chakraborty
Office: PAÍS 2228

Time & Location

Teaching Assistants


Laser safety training: link

Course Description

Experimental Optics Lab is organized around three modules that are expected to last about 4 weeks each. The modules are more complicated than lower-division undergraduate labs. You will find fewer specific instructions; independent problem-solving is expected. The goal is to provide an environment which develops laboratory skills. You will work with a partner. You are encouraged to get help from the Instructor and TA regularly. Experiments will be rotated at the conclusion of each module.

You must complete the following, in order, before Friday, May 3rd:

  • 2 standard modules from the list below
  • One final project module

Standard Modules (lab writeups)

  • Wavemeter
  • Laser Velocimetry
  • Saturated Absorption spectroscopy
  • Fourier Optics
  • Fiber Optics
  • Polarization
  • Mode-locked laser
  • Nonlinear Optics
  • Diffraction of Single Photons

Final Project Module

Working either alone or with one partner, you will choose any of the above experiments or any of the other equipment available in the optics labs or purchase/build custom hardware on P&A budget (provided it is not too expensive):

  1. Develop and test your own hypothesis that is different from the standard lab module. Meet with instructor in March to discuss and submit a 1-page proposal due 1-2 weeks before Final Projects begin. Proposals are pass/fail, but the instructor will provide feedback. The quality of your scientific question and experimental plan are part of your final project grade. You are encouraged to automate the experiment and acquire data using LabView when possible.
  2. Present findings in 30 min oral presentation (in place of a written final exam)


You will be graded on:

  • Participation (including electronic lab notebook and attendance), 15%
  • Standard module writeups, 25% x 2
  • Final project, including oral presentation, 35%

Each module will be graded on the quality of the work and the clarity and professionalism of the writeup/oral presentation.

Late assignments will be marked down one full letter grade for each week late. The instructor and TA will often be working directly with you and will have plenty of opportunities to assess your progress. Be sure to engage them in discussion and ask plenty of questions.

You are expected to attend each lab session unless excused by the instructor. Participation is important and unexcused absences will affect the first component of grading.

Lab Notebook

You should plan to bring a laptop to each class if possible. In every module, each student will be responsible for maintaining a detailed electronic notebook file. We will use Google Docs to record all information; this will make writeups easier and allow for easy collaboration amongst teams. Relevant information should be recorded as the experiment progresses. A useful description (if somewhat outdated) of the lab notebook procedure can be found here. The instructor and TA will periodically look through the lab notebooks unannounced to check that you are making an effort to take notes. This is a case where style is less important and we encourage you to use shorthand, photos, screenshots, etc. to make the note-taking process less time-consuming. Please create and share your Google doc with and TA at the beginning of every module.


Developing technical writing skills is an important component of this course. An accomplished scientist must be adept at properly explaining and documenting his/her work following established conventions.

For the standard modules, each student is responsible for producing their own report no later than 2 weeks after the completion of the module. If two students worked as a pair, each student should submit their own writeup--you may use similar data figures/tables, but the writing and discussion should be your own. The writeup should follow the format of a formal technical document that you would see in a physics journal such as Physical Review Letters. There should be an abstract that concisely summarizes what you have done. An Introduction orients the reader to the work with background material. There should be a section that clearly describes the experiment with diagrams and details. This is followed by sections for Results (graphs and/or tables are almost mandatory), Analysis/Discussion, and a short Conclusion. References are listed last.

The Results section is among the most important sections. It is a good idea to discuss with the instructor and TA what your plots might look like before you acquire data. This will allow you to acquire data in a comprehensive way so that, when you've rendered the final figures, the reader can easily visualize your results. Analysis should follow rigorous statistical methods for parameter and uncertainty estimation.

Use a template from a research journal of your choice (eg. APS, OSA). OSA templates can be found here. Search online or simply look in the hallways of our physics building for plenty of examples. There is no page requirement but be sure to write clearly and concisely. The 2-week deadline is in place for two reasons: i) it's best to work on the report while details are fresh in your mind and ii) you should begin organizing your ideas and thoughts for the writeup while the experiment is in progress.

Final oral presentation

Each student will deliver an oral presentation during our final exam timeslot. Presentations will cover the work done on the final projects. They should be 30 minutes in length, and there will be an additional 10 min for Q/A. The format of the talk should follow that of a standard research talk at, for example, APS March Meeting.


COVID-19 Health and Awareness

UNM is a mask friendly, but not a mask-required, community. To be registered or employed at UNM, Students, faculty, and staff must all meet UNM's Administrative Mandate on Required COVID-19 vaccination.

If you are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, please do not come to class. If you have a positive COVID-19 test, please stay home for five days and isolate yourself from others, per the Centers for Disease Control (CDC)guidelines.

If you do need to stay home, please email me; I can work with you to provide alternatives for course participation and completion. UNM faculty and staff know that these are challenging times.

Please let us know if you need support so that we can connect you to the right resources and please be aware that UNM will publish information on websites and emails about any changes to our public health status and community response.


Accommodation Statement

UNM is committed to providing equitable access to learning opportunities for students with documented disabilities. As your instructor, it is my objective to facilitate an inclusive classroom setting, in which you have full access and opportunity to participate. To engage in a confidential conversation about the process for requesting reasonable accommodations for this class and/or program, please contact Accessibility Resource Center or by phone at 505-277-3506.

Support: Contact me at or in office/check-in hours and contact Accessibility ResourceCenter ( at (505) 277-3506.

Title IX

In an effort to meet obligations under Title IX, UNM faculty, Teaching Assistants, and Graduate Assistants are considered “responsible employees”). This designation requires that any report of gender discrimination which includes sexual harassment, sexual misconduct and sexual violence made to a faculty member, TA, or GA must be reported to the Title IX Coordinator at the Office of Compliance, Ethics, and Equal Opportunity. For more information on the campus policy regarding sexual misconduct, see: