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Optical Engineering

The science of light, once confined to research labs and science fiction novels, has found its way into our everyday lives. The applications of optics can be seen everywhere. A list of more common examples of these applications include laser printers, fiber optic communication, internet switches, fiber optic telephone lines, compact disc players, credit cards bearing holograms, grocery checkout scanners, computers and eye surgery. The field of optics is an enabling technology and is growing at a rapid pace. Optical techniques are found in a wide range of areas such as surveying and construction, measurements of material parameters and deformation, flow measurements, communications, machine vision, laser cutting, drilling and welding, data storage, internet switches, optical computers and sensors etc. Surveys show that there is a growing demand for optical designers/scientists/ engineers every year. Opportunities for graduates in Optical Engineering are available in many industries, including automated inspection, consumer electronics, fiber optic communications, optical instrumentation, laser devices, radar systems, data storage etc.

The Optical Engineering bachelor’s degree program is one of the few in the country. This program provides a firm foundation for those interested in continuing thier studies in optics at the graduate level, as well as for those going into industry. The curriculum was developed by the faculty with input from industrial representatives as well as from renowned national and international optics educators. Because of the diverse applications of optics, the curriculum contains a mix of courses in physics and mathematics as well as humanities and social sciences. The Optical Engineering program at Rose-Hulman stresses laboratory instruction. We also encourage students to look at options for a double major, especially Optical Engineering with electrical, computer or mechanical engineering.

Students majoring in degree programs other than Optical Engineering are eligible to obtain an area minor in Optical Engineering.

The Department of Physics and Optical Engineering also offers an M.S. (Optical Engineering) degree. The masters level degree program complements the B.S. (Optical Engineering) degree program. Highly motivated students may obtain both a B.S. and an M.S. in Optical Engineering in a five-year period. A plan of study for this program must be approved by the end of the student’s junior year.

You may view all information regarding Physics and Optical Engineering at our web site: http://www.rose-hulman.edu/physics.aspx

OE Program Educational Objectives

  • Our graduates will set their career path and advance beyond their entry-level position or progress toward the completion of an advanced degree.
  • Our graduates will make a meaningful impact on society.
  • Our graduates will behave ethically and act as responsible members of the engineering and science community.
  • Our graduates will continue to develop professionally

OE Student Learning Outcomes

Outcome A:

An ability to apply knowledge of mathematics, science, and engineering

  • Demonstrate competency in applying knowledge of mathematics (such as multivariable calculus, differential equations, linear algebra, complex variables, and probability and statistics), physics and chemistry

  • Demonstrate competency in applying basic engineering science topics with common themes among engineering disciplines

  • Demonstrate competency in applying theoretical and experimental knowledge in geometrical optics, physical optics, optical materials and  devices to modeling, analysis and design of optical/photonic devices and systems

Outcome B:

An ability to design and conduct experiments, as well as to analyze and interpret data

  • Identify the problem and determine what data need to be collected.
  • Apply safe laboratory practices
  • Select appropriate measurement techniques to collect the data.
  • Demonstrate the ability to use laboratory equipment for measurement.
  • Use appropriate statistical and analytical procedures to estimate uncertainties and interpret results
  • Be able to recognize the necessity to use graphical and numerical analysis
  • Extract trends and demonstrate their importance from numerical data, graphs, and text.
  • Draw conclusions
Outcome C:

An ability to design a system, component, or process to meet desired needs within realistic constraints such as economic, environmental, social, political, ethical, health and safety, manufacturability, and sustainability

  • Elicit customer needs and define realistic constraints
  • Identify viable alternatives in design and make an informed selection.
  • Break down a system/process to its fundamental elements and components.
  • Carry out design using appropriate tools.
  • Incorporate economic analysis and analyze cost in design.
  • Apply appropriate engineering standards.
  • Deliver a functional prototype that meets customer needs.
  • Document project work and give an oral and formal written report.
Outcome D:

An ability to function on multidisciplinary teams

  • Share responsibilities and team duties by taking on different roles when applicable.
  • Set milestones for the project.
  • Discern feasible solutions.
  • Develop a strategy for action.
  • Meet objectives on schedule.
  • Document work.
  • Build consensus.
Outcome E:

An ability to identify, formulate, and solve engineering problems

  • Identify, inspect, and define problems.
  • Understand the basic principles and fundamental concepts required to solve problems
  • Research and gather information.
  • Use correct data, tools and adequate assumptions to solve problems.
  • Demonstrate an awareness of multiple possible solutions.
  • Develop criteria for evaluation of solutions.
Outcome F:

An understanding of professional and ethical responsibility

  • Demonstrate knowledge of the Code of Ethics for Optical Engineers
  • Evaluate the ethical dimensions of professional practice.
  • Practice responsible decision making.
Outcome G:

An ability to communicate effectively

  • Identify the technical knowledge and information needs of the audience.
  • Provide technical content that is factually correct, supported with evidence, explained with sufficient detail, and properly documented.
  • Summarize the graphical, numerical, and textual information in memos and reports.
  • Submit work that is free of errors in spelling, punctuation, grammar, and usage.
Outcome H:

The broad education necessary to understand the impact of engineering solutions in a global, economic, environmental, and societal context

  • Show an awareness of the impact of technology on culture and the environment and vice versa.
Outcome I:

A recognition of the need for, and an ability to engage in life-long learning

  • Demonstrate the ability to independently find and use technical information
  • Demonstrate awareness of the current trend of optics/photonics technology by participating in exchange programs, internships, presentations or professional society activities.
Outcome J:

A knowledge of contemporary issues

  • Be knowledgeable of contemporary issues related to engineering practice
Outcome K:

An ability to use the techniques, skills, and modern engineering tools necessary for engineering practice

  • Design, construct, and align optical systems using light sources, optical components, mounts, and detection systems
  • Use basic programming (e.g. Matlab or C+) for engineering practice.
  • Use appropriate software tools for modeling optical devices and systems (e.g. Code V, Zemax, Light Tools)
  • Use appropriate software tools for data analysis and presentation

The optical engineering program is accredited by the Engineering Accreditation Commission of ABET,www.abet.org



1. All the courses listed above by the number.
2. The program must be approved by the advisor.
3. A technical elective is any RHIT course in biology, biomathematics, chemistry, computer science, engineering, mathematics, or physics
  Classes by subjects


Optics Coursework


Physics Coursework


Freshmen Physics, Chemistry and Mathematics Coursework 47
Humanities and Social Science (Standard requirement) 36
Electives (8 credits engineering electives, and 12 credits of free electives; cannot include ECE 340) 20
Miscellaneous 25
Total 194
Physics Classes  
Course Description Hours
PH235 Many particle physics 4
PH255 Foundations of Modern Physics 4
PH292 Physical Optics 4
PH316 Elec & Mag Fields 4
PH405 Semiconductor Materials & Applications 4
Total   20
Freshman Physics, Math and Chemistry Classes 
Course Description Hours
PH111 Physics I 4
PH112 Physics II 4
PH113 Physics III 4
MA111 Calculus I 5
MA112 Calculus II 5
MA113 Calculus III 5
MA211 Differential Equations 4
MA212 Matrix Algebra and Systems of Differential Equations 4
MA223 Engineering Statistics 4
CHEM111 Engineering Chemistry I 4
CHEM113 Engineering Chemistry II 4
Total   47
Miscellaneous and Engineering Classes  
Course Description Hours
CLSK 100 College and Life Skills 1
EM 104 Graphical Communication 2
ME 123 Computer Applications I   4 
EM 103 Introduction to Design 2
ECE 203 DC Circuits 4
ECE 204 AC Circuits 4
 Total   17 

Area Minor
The course requirements and advisors for Area Minors in Optical Engineering, Solid State Physics/Materials Science, and Electronics are listed below. Successful completion of an Area Minor is indicated on the student’s grade transcript. A student interested in pursuing an Area Minor should consult with the appropriate advisor.

Area Minor in Astronomy
(Eligibility: students in any major degree program)
Advisors: Drs. Ditteon, Duree, Kirkpatrick, McInerney and Syed

Required Courses

Course Hours Course Description
PH 230 4 Introduction to Astronomy and Astrophysics
PH 240 4 Planetary Science and Cosmology
PH 310 2 Introduction to Relativity
PH 322 4 Celestial Mechanics
Plus four hours of:
PH 270 2 Special Topics in Physics
PH 290 2 Directed Research
PH 460 4 Directed Study
PH 470 4 Special Topics in Physics
PH 490 4 Directed Research

The optional courses must be on a topic approved by one of the astronomy advisors.

Area Minor in Optical Engineering
(Eligibility: students in any degree program, except programs where Optical Engineering is designated as one of the majors.)
Advisors: Drs. Bunch, Ditteon, Duree, Granieri, Joenathan, Leisher, Siahmakoun, and Wagner.

Required Courses  (12 hours)

Course Hours Course Description
OE 280 4 Geometrical Optics
PH 292 4 Physical Optics
OE 295 4 Photonic Devices and Systems

Plus at least two courses (8 hours) from the list below:

Course Hours Course Description
OE 360 4 Optical Materials 
OE 392 4 Linear Optical Systems
OE 393 4 Fiber Optics and Applications
OE 395 4 Optomechanics & Optial Engineering Lab
OE 434 4 Non-Imaging Optics
OE 435 4 Biomedical Optics
OE 437 4 Introduction to Image Processing
OE 450 4 Laser Systems and Applications
OE 470 4 Special Topics in Optical Engineering
OE 480 4 Optical System Design
OE 493 4 Fundamentals of Optical Fiber Communications
OE 495 4 Optical Metrology

In order to have the area minor posted to your transcripts you must submit an area-minor completion form to the registrar. Forms are available in the Physics and Optical Engineering department office.

Also see Certificate Program in Semiconductor Materials and Devices

Area Minor in ECE: (Eligibility: Only students in Physics and Optical Engineering)
Advisors: Optical Engineering faculty and ECE faculty

Course Hours Course Description
ECE 203 4 DC Circuits
ECE 204 4 AC Circuits
ECE 205 4 Dynamical Systems
ECE 300 4 Continuous-Time Signals and Systems
ECE 310 4 Communication Systems
ECE 380 4 Discrete-Time Signals and Systems

required courses

In order to have the area minor posted to your transcript you must submit an area-minor completion form to the registrar. Forms are available in the Electrical and Computer Engineering office.

Optical Communications Certificate

Faculty advisors: B. Black, R. M. Bunch and S. Granieri

Rose-Hulman has become a leader in providing opportunities for students to choose a great mainstream degree program with flexibility to specialize in other areas of interest. This leadership is in no way limited to only traditional areas of study. One of these new areas that had a high impact in technology is optical communications. It is a rapidly growing field requiring investment beyond the traditional program structure, and is well suited to the students at Rose-Hulman All these topics are closely related to well established disciplines as optics and electronics. Considerable R&D efforts are allocated in both university and industrial laboratories enhancing the demand for both researchers and engineers with expertise in the field.

We propose the creation of a new certificate program in Optical Communications to enhance the programs currently offered. Combining expertise in Optical and Electrical Engineering, this program requires an interdisciplinary emphasis that is beyond the traditional content of either of its parent programs. This program is more than just the creation of the certificate program Optical Communications. This program will be critical to help developing a more interdisciplinary interaction for students and faculty. The creation of a workgroup within the faculty of both departments will coordinate current courses and resources, create new courses of interest for the field, and develop a showcase testbed education and research laboratory. Primary objectives include the removal of redundancy from existing courses, increasing interaction between the PHOE and ECE Departments, and improving opportunities for students in the field.

This certificate is designed to give the student a firm theoretical and practical working knowledge in the area of fiber optic devices, optical communications, networks and its applications. The main purpose is to couch these fundamentals in a context that serves as the backbone for device, components and sub-system development for use in high-speed optical data and information links and networks. At the end of the program the student will be expected to:

  1. Understand the fundamental operation characteristics of high speed optoelectronic components, such as laser transmitters, light modulators and receivers and passive fiber optic components as connectors, couplers, filters, and switches.
  2. Understand the technology and performance of analog and digital fiber optic links, optical amplification and optical wavelength division multiplexing and optical time division multiplexing networks.
  3. Have a hands-on working knowledge of the use of fiber optic test equipment and techniques used by industry and telecommunication companies to test the performance of optical fiber links and components, such as, optical time domain reflectometry, optical spectrum analyzers and optical bit error testing equipment.

The Certificate will consist of 20 credit hours of which 12 credit hours will be required courses. Students interested in pursuing this Certificate should contact an ECE/PHOE certificate advisor (Professors Black, Bunch, and Granieri)

Required Courses

ECE 310 Communication Systems
OE 393 Fiber Optics and Applications
OE 493 Fundamentals of Optical Fiber Communications

Elective Courses (two from the list)
Only courses not required for the student’s major will count for electives in the certificate.

ECE 380 Discrete Time & Continuous Systems
ECE 410 Communication Networks
ECE 414 Wireless Systems
OE 360 Optical Materials
OE 435 Biomedical Optics
OE 450 Laser Systems and Applications

Course Sequence

Freshman Open Close
Sophomore Open Close
Junior Open Close
Senior Open Close


*If OE 172 is not taken during the freshman or sophomore year, the requirement must be replaced with a 300 or 400-level OE course of at least 2 credits.
**An engineering elective is any 200, 300,or 400-level course listed as OE, EP, ECE, ME, CE, BE, EM or ES.
***A PH/OE/EP elective is any 200, 300,or 400-level course listed as OE, EP or PH.