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PHSI232 Electromagnetism and Optics

2021 information for papers will be published in early September. 

Classical electromagnetic theory is developed in terms of Maxwell’s equations, and applied to the description of dielectric and magnetic materials. The wave theory of optics, originating from electromagnetism, is explored with examples including interference, diffraction and coherence.

This paper develops the classical theory of electromagnetism in terms of Maxwell's equations, both in vacuum and in media. A major emphasis is placed on the use of vector calculus and its related integral theorems to solve for electric and magnetic fields. The formal similarity of electrostatic and magnetostatic problems is shown, and principles of symmetry and superposition are used to facilitate solution. Electromagnetic induction and the energy of electromagnetic fields are introduced. Fundamental concepts in optics are developed in terms of electromagnetism, including light propagation, interference, reflection, refraction, transmission at interfaces, and applications in diffraction.

Paper title Electromagnetism and Optics
Paper code PHSI232
Subject Physics
EFTS 0.1500
Points 18 points
Teaching period Second Semester
Domestic Tuition Fees (NZD) $1,080.30
International Tuition Fees (NZD) $4,858.95

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PHSI 132 and (MATH 160 or MATH 170)
PHSI 262
Recommended Preparation
MATH 170
Schedule C
It is strongly recommended that students taking PHSI 231 or PHSI 232 have passed MATH 170 or are enrolled in MATH 170 and have a B grade or better in MATH 160.
Teaching staff
Course Co-ordinator:Associate Professor Niels Kjaergaard
Dr Harald Schwefel
Griffiths, D.J. Introduction to Electrodynamics, Fourth edition, Addison-Wesley

Peatross, J. and Ware, M., Physics of Light and Optics, 2015 edition, available free at
Graduate Attributes Emphasised
Global perspective, Interdisciplinary perspective, Lifelong learning, Scholarship, Communication, Critical thinking, Information literacy, Self-motivation.
View more information about Otago's graduate attributes.
Learning Outcomes
After completing this paper students will be able to:
  1. State the time-dependent Maxwell's equations in vacuum and in media and understand their significance in providing the framework of classical electromagnetism
  2. Present written, logical and clear solutions to problems in electrostatics, magnetostatics, induced electromagnetic fields and basic wave optics
  3. Solve steady state problems in electromagnetism by utilising symmetries, vector calculus and its integral theorems
  4. Solve simple problems for induced electromagnetic fields using both differential and integral forms of Maxwell's equations
  5. Understand foundational concepts of optics in terms of Maxwell's equations and be able to solve simple problems of wave propagation, diffraction and interference

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Second Semester

Teaching method
This paper is taught On Campus
Learning management system


Stream Days Times Weeks
L1 Monday 10:00-10:50 28-34, 36-41
Tuesday 10:00-10:50 28-34, 36-41
Wednesday 10:00-10:50 28-34, 36-41


Stream Days Times Weeks
Attend one stream from
T1 Tuesday 11:00-11:50 28-34, 36-41
T2 Friday 16:00-16:50 28-34, 36-41


Stream Days Times Weeks
Attend one stream from
A1 Wednesday 14:00-15:50 28-34, 36-41
A2 Thursday 14:00-15:50 28-34, 36-41