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Major: Photonics

Major Details



Department of Physics and Astronomy
Faculty of Science and Engineering

This major must be completed as part of an award. The general requirements for the award must be satisfied in order to graduate.

Requirements for the Major:

Completion of a minimum of 36 credit points including the following prescribed units:

Credit points

100 level

6cp from
Electric and Magnetic Interactions (3)
Modern Mechanics (3)
or 6cp from
Physics IA (3)
Physics IB (3)
Mathematics IA (Advanced) (3)
Mathematics IA (3)
Mathematics IB (Advanced) (3)
Mathematics IB (3)

200 level

Mathematics IIA (3)
Introduction to Optical Science and Technology (3)
Classical and Quantum Oscillations and Waves (3)
Electromagnetism and Thermodynamics (3)

300 level

Professional Physics (3)
Classical Electrodynamics (3)
Optical Physics (3)
Condensed Matter and Nanoscale Physics (3)


Units marked with a C are Capstone units.
Units marked with a P are PACE units.
Additional Information
Overview and Aims of the Program The Major in Photonics includes optics and photonics. Optics is the study of the manner with which light behaves and interacts with matter, such as reflection and refraction at transparent surfaces. Photonics is the study of the generation, transmission, manipulation, control and detection of light. Photonics is also interdisciplinary in nature because it combines optics and electronics, and is recognised as a disruptive technology that enables rapid advances in diverse fields such as biology, medicine, electronics, astronomy, nano-science and quantum physics. It is a major influence on modern and developing economies. Examples of photonic technologies include laser systems, fibre-optic communications systems, remote sensing systems, next generation astronomical instrumentation and medical diagnosis systems– all items of great relevance in today’s society.

The Photonics Major offers a comprehensive and balanced grounding in optics and photonics. Building on basic theory covering the generation of photons – the fundamental particle of light – the coursework evolves to review the principles of light propagation in optical fibres, the science and engineering underpinning lasers and semiconductor photodetectors, culminating in an analysis of the design and operation of advanced optical systems used in optical communications, keyhole surgery, machine vision and astronomy-on-a-chip to name a few. The coursework is complemented by laboratory classes that give students the opportunity to work with laser systems, optical fibres, fibre communications and opto-electronic control systems. Throughout the degree, students are also exposed to new breakthroughs in photonics, some of which will be those of the lecturers who are themselves internationally recognised researchers in the field of photonics. The final year capstone unit for the Major prepares students for a professional career in photonics and related physics fields by giving them the opportunity to integrate their theoretical knowledge and experimental expertise in an industry setting with University partners active in photonics development and commercialisation.
Graduate Capabilities

The Graduate Capabilities Framework articulates the fundamentals that underpin all of Macquarie’s academic programs. It expresses these as follows:

Cognitive capabilities
(K) discipline specific knowledge and skills
(T) critical, analytical and integrative thinking
(P) problem solving and research capability
(I) creative and innovative

Interpersonal or social capabilities
(C) effective communication
(E) engaged and ethical local and global citizens
(A) socially and environmentally active and responsible

Personal capabilities
(J) capable of professional and personal judgement and initiative
(L) commitment to continuous learning

Program Learning Outcomes By the end of this program it is anticipated you should be able to

1. demonstrate knowledge of fundamental physics concepts and principles (K)
2. evaluate the role of theoretical models, numerical and empirical studies in development of physics knowledge (K, T, I)
3. solve physical problems by identifying and applying core physical principles and relevant mathematical and computational techniques (K, T, I)
4. design an activity or experiment to test a physical hypothesis (K, T, P, I)
5. use a range of measurement and analytical tools and methodologies to collect and interpret data (K, T, P)
6. communicate physical ideas using appropriate language and conventions (K, T, C)
7. demonstrate capacity for effective, responsible and safe work practices as an individual or in a team (C, A, J)
8. demonstrate an understanding of electromagnetic theory, and linear and nonlinear optics in both free space and waveguides (K)
9. analyse and compare the performance of various types of lasers (K, T)
10. critically analyse and interpret standard optical systems, and demonstrate competent technical skills using conventional optical systems (K, T)
11. independently design and implement standard optical systems based on laser interactions, vision and detection (K, T, P, I).

12. critical analytical and integrative thinking: students are trained to critically analyse and interpret the results of both individual and team-based laboratory projects and other sources including journals and the world wide web, leading to the capability to synthesise learning and knowledge from various sources (K,T,P,I,J,L).
13. problem solving and research capability: students develop problem solving skills and apply these skills to a range of individual, team based and industry oriented projects. This fosters both independent problem solving, research planning, and team work skills (K, T, P, I, C, E, A, J, L)
14. effective communication: students develop reporting and communications skills through tasks that develop their capacity for conveying information using a variety of media (C, J)
15. student engagement as ethical local and global citizens: students work effectively and ethically within a multi-faceted scientific environment, beyond the University. Students gain expertise in experimental approach, planning and cooperation in the university, and insights in the challenges and constraints of undertaking projects in industry (E, A, J)
16. professional and personal judgement and initiative: students regularly work in teams and must exercise sound judgment when interacting with other members of the team, sharing resources and exercising best OHS practice for the benefit of both their own safety and the safety of the other team members. This enables graduates to adapt to diverse and changing environments within complex workplace contexts (E, A, J)
17. commitment to continuous learning: the Major in Photonics fosters enquiry and curiosity in Physics and Photonics through a rigorous academic framework. We aim to provide students with the motivation and tools to pursue knowledge for its own sake, beyond their degree. The success of the program in this area is evident in the number of students who pursue Research Degrees (L).
Learning and Teaching Methods In this program you will build your fundamental technical skills in the experimental and theoretical aspects of both physics and photonics. You will develop an understanding of their methodology, relationship with other disciplines and technological applications. Most of the units are comprised of three structured learning activities: lectures, tutorials and guided laboratory exercises.

Lectures are where theoretical ideas and experimental and mathematical techniques are introduced and illustrated by a range of illustrative examples. They provide opportunities for discussion and active engagement, and as your studies progress will draw not only on textbooks and online learning materials, but involve exposure and interaction with the current research.
Tutorials both demonstrate concrete applications of techniques introduced in lectures, and provide training ground for students for their application. Tutorials typically involve a mixture of individual and group work with guidance and assistance from the tutors.

Laboratory work is an indispensable part of physics and photonics education. You will acquire familiarity with experimental methods and practices that both illustrate the theoretical concepts that are presented in lectures and facilitate development of practical research skills. Laboratory work, combining access to both dedicated physics and speciality photonics laboratories, is the first setting where students will learn to work collaboratively, and preparation of reports from practical exercises provides you with valuable training in communicating scientific results.

Mastering effective communication is a major component of all learning activities. Apart from the laboratory reports and problem-solving assignments you will prepare oral and written presentations and/or essays of their research and study projects.

From the first year you will be engaged in collaborative work, both in tutorials and laboratories. With your study progression you become exposed to less structured activities, such as individual or group-based research projects, and formal and informal presentations. There are many instances of blended learning activities, including a combination of online and face-to-face modes, or group and/or one-to-one activities are combined.

The program prescribes People, Planet units and allows for Professional engagement. During your study you will take one of the designated People units (in the areas of social sciences, business or arts) and one Planet unit (experiencing a different area of science). Toward the end of the program the Capstone unit of study allows students to integrate their skills and knowledge and to apply it to real-life problems. In the case of the Photonic Major you will be placed in an industrial setting and will work with a team of professionals on a project exploring applications of optics and photonics.

An annual careers networking event is held where graduates of the program return to share their experiences with current students preparing to go out into industry, academic or government employment.
Assessment Assessment tasks are intended both to measure individual progress and give feedback. They are based on the topics of the units of study and are provided in two forms: whilst you are working on a task and once you have completed a task. Both forms of feedback are important as they provide you with information and guidance on your development and progress.

At least three different assessment methods are used in each unit. They include problem solving, laboratory work and reports, oral presentations, essays, active participation in lectures and/or tutorials, online and in-class quizzes, individual and group projects. Formal examinations are part of the assessment of the majority of units and involve solving of problems appropriate for the scope and level of the unit. The assessment in most units includes regular assessment tasks, such as the submission of weekly/biweekly home assignments and/or in-class tests, designed to assist you in your learning development.

Standards and criteria for coursework, what is assessed and how it is assessed, are contained in each unit guide or may be made available during classes. Assessment is undertaken by academic staff, demonstrators and tutors. In some cases peer assessment will contribute to the grade, and it may be done by people from outside the university, such as work placement supervisors or guest lecturers.

Where group work is involved, a self-reflection and peer assessment/feedback in the form of contribution to the assessment task is incorporated into the requirements of the assessment so that your individual contribution can be identified.
Recognition of Prior Learning

Macquarie University may recognise prior formal, informal and non-formal learning for the purpose of granting credit towards, or admission into, a program. The recognition of these forms of learning is enabled by the University’s Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) Policy (see and its associated Procedures and Guidelines. The RPL pages contain information on how to apply, links to registers, and the approval processes for recognising prior learning for entry or credit. 

Domestic Students
For undergraduate RPL information visit
For domestic postgraduate RPL information visit

International Students
For RPL information visit

Support for Learning

Macquarie University aspires to be an inclusive and supportive community of learners where all students are given the opportunity to meet their academic and personal goals. The University offers a comprehensive range of free and accessible student support services which include academic advice, counselling and psychological services, advocacy services and welfare advice, careers and employment, disability services and academic skills workshops amongst others. There is also a bulk billing medical service located on campus.

Further information can be found at

Campus Wellbeing contact details:
Phone: +61 2 9850 7497

Program Standards and Quality

The program is subject to an ongoing comprehensive process of quality review in accordance with a pre-determined schedule that complies with the Higher Education Standards Framework. The review is overseen by Macquarie University's peak academic governance body, the Academic Senate and takes into account feedback received from students, staff and external stakeholders.

Graduate Destinations and Employability The graduates of the Photonics Major have been employed in the following areas: sales/service engineers of high tech equipment; research/professional officers in university, government, hospital and industry research laboratories; Science Teaching and Science communication; Patent Attorney and Patent Examiner; and Research and Development Engineers/Officers involved in optics and photonics component development and manufacturing.
Assessment Regulations

This program is subject to Macquarie University regulations, including but not limited to those specified in the Assessment Policy, Academic Honesty Policy, the Final Examination Policy and relevant University Rules. For all approved University policies, procedures, guidelines and schedules visit

Accreditation Australian Institute of Physics accreditation as a Physics degree - every 5 years - most recently Oct 2013.

2017 Unit Information

When offered:
S1 Day
Permission of Executive Dean of Faculty
HSC Chinese, CHN113, CHN148