First Order Optical System Design

Optical instruments are how we see the world, from corrective eyewear to medical endoscopes to cell phone cameras to orbiting telescopes. This course will teach you how to design such optical systems with simple graphical techniques, then transform those pencil and paper designs to include real optical components including lenses, diffraction gratings and prisms. You will learn how to enter these designs into an industry-standard design tool, OpticStudio by Zemax, to analyze and improve performance with powerful automatic optimization methods.

Created by: Amy Sullivan

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Overall Score : 78 / 100

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Course Description

Optical instruments are how we see the world, from corrective eyewear to medical endoscopes to cell phone cameras to orbiting telescopes. When you finish this course, you will be able to design, to first order, such optical systems with simple mathematical and graphical techniques. This first order design will allow you to develop the foundation needed to begin all optical design as well as the intuition needed to quickly address the feasibility of complicated designs during brainstorming meetings. You will learn how to enter these designs into an industry-standard design tool, OpticStudio by Zemax, to analyze and improve performance with powerful automatic optimization methods.

Instructor Details

Amy Sullivan

Amy Sullivan received her BA in Physics from Bates College, and her MS and PhD in Physics from the University of Colorado at Boulder. She has worked in the photonics industry in the areas of liquid crystal displays, frequency-stabilized and high power tunable infrared lasers, and machine vision imaging systems. She has taught as an assistant professor at Agnes Scott College as well as an instructor at various colleges and universities in Colorado and now works as a research associate in the Electrical, Computer and Energy Engineering department at the University of Colorado.



60 total reviews

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By Bailey C on 19-Mar-19

This course has a lot of potential, but leaves a lot to bedesired. Its definitely not for everyone, so take a few things into accountbefore you join:1) The lecture videos are pretty superficial. You can read themajority of the information in the first few chapters of pretty much any textbookon optical engineering.2) There is a large discrepancy between the depth ofinformation presented and the depth required to solve the assignments. Solvingthe assignments can often require a significant amount of time researching onthe internet or in other optics sources to find the necessary background information.3) Many of the assignment problems are very poorly written.Questions and explanations are ambiguous or unclear more often than not. Ioften had to solve the problems 2-3 different ways using a differentinterpretation of the question to get the right answer.4) There is no interaction between the teachers and thecourse whatsoever. The forums are full of posts by confused students asking forhelp with 0 replies. Even now, well over a year after the course was created,the final assignment has technical issues that prevent students from evensubmitting the assignment as intended.Issues #2 and #3 wouldnt be critical if #4 were remedied,but the creators seem to have no interest in maintaining their course or interactingwith the students in a meaningful way. In short, if you are looking to bedropped in the deep end of optical design and are an effective self-learner (seriously,you are on your own here), you can learn a lot simply by grinding through theassignments. If you are looking to be taught in the traditional sense, or forprofessionalism, look somewhere else.

By Randy H on 9-Aug-19

I am still struggling through this course. The lecture materials are insufficient. The instructors are non responsive and the other students taking the class are too few in number for me to have a cadre with which to discuss. I'm left googling the topics in order to proceed. For the money spent, this is unsatisfactory. I'd highly recommend NOT taking this course.

By Richard D on 5-Feb-19

Very advanced, and might be intractable for those without some previous optics experience.

By Marek B on 12-Apr-19

Good Course but it is impossible to get any response from the Instructors or TAs and the fact that we were using demo version of the Optic Studio which had some limitations in comparison with the regular version (like number of decimal places displayed, lack of optimisation wizard, inability to save your work) and needed to be reinstalled every two weeks or so felt very unprofessional.

By Lawrence S on 20-Dec-18

A few new insights even for a senior optical engineer. I will keep working through their lectures if each one offers at least a few nuggets of insight.

By Maryam S on 10-Jan-19

I really enjoyed taking the course. Completing assignments especially after week 3 took me 2-3 times longer than the suggested specified time. However I learned a lot from this course. Learning Zemax was always like a hurdle for me but amazingly the instructor walked me through the main features of the software and I feel you already know a lot about optical design and simulations. The capstone project seems to be tough (I haven't started it yet), but it is worthed spending the time since it complements your learning and proficiency level.

By April Y on 17-Jan-19

Learned a ton about paraxial optics design. Great lecture, capstone project is A LOT of work (>20 hour) for me.

By osama a r on 25-Mar-19

A unique and very well designed online applied optics course which provides insight to optics designing and helps in understanding the optical systems. After this course, i feel enriched with the optics knowledge. Anxiously looking forward for more courses in this specialization.

By Ilse J M on 28-Jan-19

This course is an excellent and concise way to get acquainted with basic (paraxial, paper-based) optical design. I've been on a quest to self-study to becoming an optical designer and I've been looking for something like this - this is the course that addresses the gap in many an optical engineering text book. The assignments also necessitate some critical thinking and further study. The course is more involved than the overview would have one believe!

By Feng-Kuo H on 14-Apr-19

This is a good course for those people wanting to start their learning in optical system design.

By Michael F P on 28-Jul-19

Excellent course

By Roberto F G on 26-Aug-19

Really nice course with very clear explanations of the principles of optical engineering and learn how to use ZEMAX Opticstudio to simulate your optical system