PHS2062 - Electromagnetism and optics - 2019

6 points, SCA Band 2, 0.125 EFTSL

Undergraduate - Unit

Refer to the specific census and withdrawal dates for the semester(s) in which this unit is offered.



Organisational Unit

School of Physics and Astronomy

Chief examiner(s)

Dr Scott Findlay


Dr Scott Findlay (unit coordinator)
Dr Istvan Laszlo (computational workshop coordinator)

Unit guides



  • Second semester 2019 (On-campus)


One unit from PHS1022, PHS1002

and one unit from MTH2010, MTH2015 or ENG2005


Recommended: MTH2032 or MTH2040

Note: supporting mathematics studies are required for progression towards the Astrophysics and Physics majors




Electromagnetism and optics fundamentally underpin such modern communication technologies as radio, cellular phones, GPS, Wi-Fi, laser and optical fibres.

  1. Electromagnetism: classical electromagnetic theory; Maxwell's equations; Gauss's law; Faraday's law; Ampere-Maxwell law; electric and magnetic fields in vacuum; electric and magnetic fields in matter; electrodynamics.
  2. Optics: geometric ray tracing; optical cavities; electromagnetic waves; Gaussian beam propagation; multiple-beam interference; polarisation; birefringence.


On completion of this unit students will be able to:

  1. Explain and apply the key concepts of electricity, magnetism and optics to a variety of phenomena.
  2. Demonstrate awareness of scientific computing methods and visualisation techniques for modelling physical systems, and use computers as a tool to solve problems in optics and electromagnetism.
  3. Use modern instruments and methods to acquire, manipulate and interpret physical data, and draw evidence based conclusions.
  4. Write scientific reports at a level suitable for publication.


NOTE: From 1 July 2019, the duration of all exams is changing to combine reading and writing time. The new exam duration for this unit is 3 hours and 10 minutes.

Examination (3 hours): 40%

Assignments, quizzes and computational workshops: 30%

Laboratory work: 30% (Hurdle)

Hurdle requirement: Students must achieve a pass mark in the laboratory work to achieve an overall pass grade.

Workload requirements

The workload to achieve the learning outcomes for this unit is 144 hours spread across the semester (roughly 12 hours per week) - approximately an even mixture of attendance at scheduled activities and self-scheduled study time. Learning activities comprise a mixture of instructor directed, peer directed and self-directed learning, which includes face-to-face and online engagement.

See also Unit timetable information

This unit applies to the following area(s) of study