Why put safety at the top? Because it is extremely important. We strongly urge you to always follow prescribed safety instructions - if you are unsure about anything, especially when dealing with high-intensity light sources (such as lasers), or with high-voltage power supplies (such as those found powering lasers or other laboratory equipment), ask someone who knows (namely the lab staff). You will receive training in how to deal with lasers and optics. However, some basic pointers to remember are listed below. More detailed information is provided in the Laboratory Safety Packet, which will be handed out during the second scheduled class. Additionally, you will be required to attend a laboratory safety training lecture and take a safety quiz to work in the laboratory.

Laser Safety Requirements

  1. Never look directly into a laser source, even low-power lasers can blind!
  2. Keep track of all stray light (and then block it).
  3. Keep all high-intensity light beams at table-level.
  4. Always keep your eyes a couple feet above table level. If you violate this exclusion zone, you will be asked to either leave the laboratory for the day, or you will be excluded from working on your project or laboratory exercise.
  5. Wear safety glasses when appropriate. You must wear them when working with IR and UV laser light, as well as with mercury discharge lamps and strong light sources.
  6. Keep your colleagues notified - tell them what you are doing so that they may protect themselves (and you). Always notify them if you turn on a laser or change the direction of the beam. Precautions also include closing the laboratory door, closing the window drapes (if appropriate), as well as turning on the laser warning light (light switch behind the chemical cabinet).
  7. Always listen to the suggestions of the laboratory staff and your colleagues.
  8. Keep your optics clean.
  9. Practice good common sense.
  10. Institute policy requires that all persons working with high-voltage, work in pairs. (see high voltage safety requirements below).
  11. No drinking or eating is allowed in the lab. Hands must be washed before handling optics or electronics.
  12. You may not work in the lab without supervision of an LA or a TA until final-project time. During final-project time you must work in pairs (only the TA, LA or lecturer may ever be in the lab alone).
  13. Cell phones (except for the lab staff) are not allowed to be turned on inside the Modern Optics Lab.
  14. Always inspect optical fiber carefully - bare fiber can easily puncture your skin or your eye!

High Voltage Safety Requirements

  1. Shielding: Live parts of all electrical equipment must be completely enclosed or otherwise guarded against accidental contact.
  2. Interlocking: Where continual maintenance or adjustments must be performed, enclosing shields must be provided with interlocks which will disconnect all power to conductors and short out capacitors when the shield is removed or opened.
  3. Disconnects: Provide an accessible, labeled main power disconnect switch.
  4. Grounding: Ground all exposed non-current carrying parts. (Metallic optical table tops should be grounded to the nearest water pipe.)
  5. Bonding: All grounded parts must be bonded to each other to keep them at the same grounded electrical potential.
  6. Insulators: Adjustment mechanisms must be insulated from live electrical parts or be made of nonconductive material.
  7. Space: A minimum of 30 inches width should be maintained on all working sides of equipment operating at 600 volts or less; 36 inches if over 600 volts.
  8. Working Alone: Working alone at any time is contrary to Institute policy.
  9. CPR: It is recommended that all persons working with lasers have training in cardiopulmonary resuscitation, available through the Safety Office, through the American Red Cross or through the American Heart Association.

Note: Violation of safety rules, if severe enough, may lead to automatic dismissal from the class. Such dismissible offenses include roughhousing, as well as moderate or serious injury due to careless action. Severe safety violations will lead to an automatic failing grade as well as possible action by the Institute as well as possible criminal liability. Some general rules follow:

For minor safety violations, you will receive a warning. After two warnings, you will be asked to leave the lab and come back on the next lab day (if it exists). If you are asked to leave due to an accumulation of minor safety violations (more than twice), you will receive an incomplete for the current lab, and therefore will not be able to receive a passing grade for the class.

Safety violations can be caused by a lack of sleep, drug use (antihistamines, pain killers, alcohol, etc.), or emotional strife (daydreaming, family illness, etc.). Therefore, temporary dismissal from the lab is not meant to be punishment, but rather an opportunity for you to remedy what ails you. You may discuss your temporary dismissal with the lab staff after the lab day. However, no excuses or arguments will be accepted at the time of dismissal - arguing will only result in disciplinary measures. So far, we have never had to dismiss a student for safety violations... please don't be the first.

Laboratory Assignments

The laboratory assignments will be made available before the actual lab date. You are required to complete pre-lab exercises before entering the lab. The remaining exercises will be completed in the lab.

1 Safety, Polarization States of Optical Waves, Dielectric Reflection and Geometric Optics (PDF)
2 Coherence and Interferometry (PDF)
3 Diffraction (PDF)
4 Holography (PDF)
5 Electro-optic, Acousto-optic and Photorefractive Light Modulation (PDF)
6 Solid-State and Gas Lasers (PDF)
7 Optical Waveguides and Fibers (PDF)


Laboratory Writeup Templates

For required lab writeups, we suggest using the OSA "A" Template for article submission. Alternatively, you can use the American Institute of Physics templates. Moreover, you may decide to use the SPIE Templates or the IEEE Templates. Be sure to follow the style guide associated with the template you use.