The word laser is an acronym for Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation. Laser science or laser physics and photonics are branches of physics that look at the theory and applications of lasers and optic light. This branch of science is really concerned with the construction and applications of lasers, their design, and the physics involved in their future development. The huge growth in telecommunications over the last ten years can be attributed to the new technologies made available through the development of fibre optics and lasers and the allowing of information to be conveyed by light. Lasers and photonics have also underpinned the revolutionary development in information technology and computing.
It was Albert Einstein who first came up with the concept of lasers in 1916. By 1960 the first laser was being demonstrated and by the middle of the 1970s lasers were in commercial use. There are many different kind of lasers: gas lasers, chemical lasers, dye lasers and solid-state lasers are just a few, each of them with their own unique properties and make-up and they are a multi-million pound industry. The barcode scanner is a familiar site in most shops and was first used in 1974, lasers are also commonplace in our homes with DVD players, laser printers for our computers and CD players. Concerts have fantastic laser light displays and many surgical procedures now rely on lasers for their accuracy and relatively painless treatment. Lasers are also used in the military and in industry.
Courses in photonics and laser physics are available and the subjects often appear as module options in more general physics courses. The more specific laser physics courses will also offer a solid grounding in mainstream physics. Some of the subjects you may study are listed below but it is best to check with the institution directly before you apply.
Example areas of study
- Laser engineering
- Laser physics
- Laser technology
- Quantum science
- Atom Physics
- Science and technology of lasers
- Electrical Engineering
- Solid-state physics
- Information engineering
- Laser and optoelectronic materials
- Environmental Physics
- Thermal physics
- Vector mechanics and general relativity
- Electromagnetism advanced laser technology
- Biomedical physics
Some career possibilities
Careers that are available to qualified physicists with a specific interest in lasers and photonics include the engineering and automotive industries, some areas of medicine, teaching/lecturing, the entertainment industry and event management, the business sector and of course research posts. Postgraduate study is available in the field.
What do I need to get on a course?
The entry requirements for laser physics courses vary from institution to institution so it is recommended that you contact them directly. The details below will give you an idea of the qualifications you may need:
- UCAS Tariff: 160 - 340 points including mathematics and physics
- A-levels: CC- AAB including mathematics and physics
- SQA Highers: BBBC - AAABBB including mathematics and physics
- SQA Advanced Highers: BB - AA including mathematics and physics
- International Baccalaureate: 24 - 36 points including mathematics and physics at higher level
- Irish Leaving Certificates: BBCC - AAABBB including mathematics and physics
- BTEC National Diploma: in a relevant subject may be considered
For your application or interview the following may be useful:
A good academic background and solid interest in science and physics
Further information on laser physics can be found at The International Laser Physics website
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