Electrical Engineering 118 — Introduction to Optical Engineering (3 Units)

Course Overview


EE118 is the introduction to optical engineering. This is an elective course that comprises a mix of physics and electrical engineering to understand optical systems. Students learn the basics of how light interacts with physical systems, and how to use light to perform a variety of tasks.


  • EE16A
  • EE16B
  • Physics 7B (Recommended)

Topics Covered

  • Optical Physics (both Ray and Wave)
  • Ray and Ray refraction
  • Imaging systems with Lenses
  • Optical Aberrations
  • Interference
  • Polarization
  • Diffraction
  • Fourier Optics


Course Work

  • 1 homework assignment per week
  • 1 discussion section per week
  • 2 Quizzes
  • 1 Final Project

Time Commitment

This course has a relatively light time commitment (compared to other upper division courses). Expect to spend 4-5 hours per week on the problem sets, 3 hours in lecture, and an hour in discussion sections. The final project is of your choosing, and can be time consuming depending on the topic you chose. However, the final project is easier than most of the upper division courses.

Choosing the Course

When to take

This course should be taken in your Junior or Senior year, it is meant as an elective course for those who are already comfortable with some optical physics (such as wave and ray optics), and have some signals and systems experience (fourier transforms). About half of the students in the class are graduate students.

What's next?

This course is fairly self contained. Depending on what you are interested in for the course, there may be further courses in different departments. This course is a good complement to CS184 (computer graphics and imaging), as one provides the physical basis for the other.

Usefulness for Research or Internships

If you are interested in doing any kind of optics (either computational optics/imaging, or actually building systems) research, then you will need this course useful to understand what is going on.

Additional Comments/Tips

If you are looking for a fairly low coursework, upper division EE class, this is a good one to take. However, you will appreciate this course much more if you have either a background in physics, or have a good understanding of physics (such as those provided by Physics 7B/7C), and a decent understanding of signals and systems, as such, it is recommended you take this later in your career.

Last updated: Summer 2020