Course descriptions

The Physics of Light

An introduction to the physics of light and its applications for lighting. Laboratory sessions are included to emphasize important concepts and to illustrate applications. Topics include geometric optics, physical optics, radiometry, and photometry.


The primary objective of the Light course is to provide the student with a basic understanding of the physics of light and introduce some important concepts in lighting. The topics covered in this course form the foundation for the study of vision and illuminating engineering.


The Light course uses a variety of instructional methodology, including lectures, laboratory sessions, hands-on experimentation, and individual student projects and presentations to cover the following areas of study:

Geometric and physical optics

Students explore the physical characteristics of light:

  • Ray approximation in geometric optics
  • Reflection and refraction - plane and spherical waves and surfaces
  • Light dispersion and prisms
  • Total internal reflection and remote source lighting systems
  • Reflectors, refracting surfaces, and lenses
  • Light collection and imaging
  • Wave optics - sinusoidal waves, interference of light, optical coatings and filters, diffraction and polarization of light
Photometry and radiometry

Students learn light source physics and lighting measurement:

  • Lighting calculations and measures
  • Lighting terms, symbols, and units
  • Diffusion
  • Measuring luminous flux
  • Spectral measurement
  • Strip, tube, and rectangular light sources
  • Measuring illuminance
  • Radiant energy as waves
  • Power density and spectral power distribution
  • Spectroradiometric measurements
4 credit hours

Light and Health

This course explores the effects of light and lighting on people's physical and psychological health and well-being. Lectures focus on the physiology of the visual and circadian systems, the relationship between lighting and visual performance and circadian photobiology, including the relationship between lighting and Alzheimer's disease, sleep disorder, alertness, seasonal affective disorder (SAD), and breast cancer. The course concludes with a research project studying the interaction of light and human health in the built environment. Students learn to apply their newly acquired knowledge of the health effects of light to lighting design and application.


Students will understand:

  • The basic physiology of the human visual system
  • The basic principles spatial vision
  • The normal changes that occur to the aging visual system and the major age-related cause of partial sight in older people, cataract, glaucoma, age-related macular degeneration, and diabetic retinopathy, and how lighting can help minimize the effects of these diseases
  • The basic principles of color vision
  • Basic principles of specification of stimulus for vision and for the circadian system
  • The appropriate photometric measurements for vision and for the circadian system
  • The basic issues associated with the aging eye as they relate to several practical application
  • The basic principles and physiological mechanisms associated with lightness and brightness perception
  • The status of color application metrics and color appearance models
  • The basic physiology of the circadian system
  • How light intensity, light spectrum, duration and timing of light exposure affects the circadian system
  • The role of light in affecting seasonal affective disorder (SAD), Alzheimer's disease, sleep disorder, relationship with increased risk of breast cancer, neonatal infants
  • The role of light (including daylight) in affecting alertness, performance, and jet-lag

Course content includes lectures, laboratory sessions, reading assignments, field studies, and class activities including:

  • Brightness perception lab. Students will be asked to assess brightness perception of chromatic and achromatic targets illuminated by two lamp types of different spectral power distribution (metal halide and high pressure sodium) under different light levels and visual angles.
  • Circadian lab. Students will be asked to investigate if sensitivity to glare varies between daytime and nighttime. Students will assess glare under the same lighting conditions but at different times of night.
  • Specification of the stimulus. Using a spreadsheet or other suitable software package, students will develop a calculation tool that can be used to determine the impact of light sources having different spectral power distributions on various aspects of the visual system (e.g., photopic, scotopic, short-wavelength cone), and use this tool to perform assigned calculations by the instructor.
  • Literature review on circadian system. Students will be asked to conduct a literature review on Light and Health, including the basics of the circadian system, lighting characteristics affecting the circadian system, and effects of light exposure on day- and night-shift workers, sleep quality of Alzheimer's patients, sleep quality of healthy older adults, sleep quality of teenagers, seasonal affective disorder.
  • Field measurements of lighting. Students will conduct measurements of light levels in their own living and working spaces as they pertain to vision and to what is known about the circadian system. Using the calculation tool developed in Assignment 1, they will estimate the impact of the measured lighting conditions for the visual and circadian systems and write a brief report summarizing the findings.

4 credit hours

Human Factors in Lighting

A review of the influence of lighting conditions on people's visual capabilities, perceptions, moods, and alertness, with understanding derived from the structure and operating characteristics of the human visual system.


To increase the students' understanding of how lighting, operating through the visual system, affects people's work, comfort, and behavior. Students will use this understanding to specify lighting more closely matched to people's needs. Upon completing this course, students will be able to

  • Analyze the visual requirements of any specified visual task, identify the aspects of lighting important for its performance, and make appropriate lighting recommendations
  • Specify the stimulus presented to the visual system in any given circumstance
  • Recognize and predict lighting conditions likely to cause discomfort, generate specific impressions, and/or modify behavior
  • Carry out field assessments of lighting installations as regards their effects on people
  • Understand the visual needs of the elderly and partially sighted
  • Evaluate the validity and significance of proposed and existing lighting standards

The course uses lectures, seminars, discussions, experimentation, and practical measurements to cover the following content:

  • Quantifying light - The fundamental photometric quantities and relationships between them, the derivation of the CIE photometry and colorimeter systems and their limitations
  • The structure of the human visual system - Eye and brain, fixation, focus, retinal structure, neural connections to the visual cortex, retinal image processing
  • Threshold visual performance - Psychophysics, visual acuity, contrast sensitivity, color discrimination, flicker, predicting visibility
  • Suprathreshold visual performance and task performance - Models of visual performance, relationship between visual and task performance, task analysis, lighting and productivity
  • Individual differences - Color-defective vision, the aging eye, forms and characteristics of partial sight
  • Identifying and quantifying visual stimulus and the ways in which lighting can change them
  • Lighting and visual comfort - Sources of visual discomfort, operating the visual system at its limits, perceptual confusion and conflict, glare, luminance ratios, and veiling reflections
  • Perception and behavior - Modes of appearance; the constencies; lighting as an aid to perception of detail, form, color, texture, and surface finish; lighting as part of the physical environment; expectations; mood; positive and negative affect; impacts on behavior
  • Lighting and tissue damage - Ultra-violet and infrared radiation, thermal and photochemical damage, threshold-limiting values

3 credit hours

Lighting Design

A design studio that explores the role of light in architecture and its application by design. Students conceive, evaluate, and synthesize solutions that contribute to successful lighting and architectural design.


Students will learn to understand light as a medium in design and derive a philosophical perspective and a personal design process for its application. Students will develop a sense of professionalism and pride in their work.


Students begin the development of the skills required to interact with the client and to design, present, communicate, and implement lighting systems. Students also formulate a process for the application of light as if working in a professional design practice. The Lighting Design studio immerses the student in actual design situations taken from the real world, the world of continuing professional practice. The many factors that contribute to successful lighting designs are critically evaluated. Emphasis is placed on issues and solutions specific to lighting and the development of the analysis that should be applied to a project. The goal is to discover the means to provide lighting that is a benefit to people and then to apply it creatively. At the same time this application must optimize the use of energy and the money expended in the process.

The scope of the lighting design studio includes

  • understanding the lighting requirements of interior and exterior spaces, including appropriate siting of lighting equipment and daylight availability analysis
  • establishing appropriate lighting criteria for efficient space utilization, task performance, and energy utilization
  • developing designed illumination and lighting control systems, including fixture selection and design, and light source selection
  • conducting lighting evaluations and calculations

In the Lighting Design course, the student is expected to reflect upon and demonstrate the knowledge and experience gained in other courses. This process requires sensitivity to the integration of the particular occupant and use issues as well as the synthesis of the art, science, and practice of lighting design with architectural/engineering design and all the other human aspects specific to the design project. Each project is considered as a separate and unique challenge to be tailored to that individual client. In the studio, students design lighting systems including luminaires, controls, and transmitting envelopes (windows, skylights, etc.), to produce spaces and places in which the environs are particularly enriched through the creative application of their lighting design solutions. The critique of studio work includes the scientific and technical as well as the humanistic and artistic issues of seeing, feeling, mood, and enrichment.

4 credit hours

Lighting Technologies and Applications

This course provides students with an in-depth understanding of the components of advanced lighting systems and enables them to critically explore applications of those components. Through lectures, readings, assignments, and application projects, students acquire working knowledge of the relevant products and techniques for lighting application and develop solutions to lighting problems. Students will undertake practical applications of advanced lighting technologies and develop skills in the application of photometric data, use of manual and computer-based lighting calculations, and the development of lighting specifications. Spring term annually.

4 credit hours

Lighting Research Design

An introduction to the philosophy of research and different approaches to it. Emphasis is placed on planning, executing, analyzing, and describing lighting experiments. Each student is required to keep a laboratory notebook and to perform statistical tests in concert with assigned research projects.


The primary objective of this class is to provide students with an understanding of the process of research so that they are prepared to undertake their thesis or final project. At the conclusion of this course, each student will be able to:

  • Review published lighting research and evaluate its quality
  • Write a clear summary and critique of a published paper
  • Undertake a literature review
  • Undertake a simple statistical analysis

During the Lighting Research Design course students will:

  • Keep a laboratory notebook
  • Critique published research papers
  • Receive instruction on experimental design and statistics
  • Carry out a simple experiment and analyze the results
  • Prepare a thesis declaration

In addition, each student will have completed his or her thesis or final project declaration in sufficient detail to meet the requirements of the graduate education in lighting committee. This course is a Graduate Seminar. It relies heavily on outside reading prior to classes, followed by active participation in class discussions and written reporting of the conclusions of the discussion. The course is organized into six interlocking parts. The first part involves formal lectures, mainly on the philosophy of research and the principles of statistical methods. The second part covers the verbal and written review of papers presented by guest lecturers. The third part involves the undertaking of a laboratory experiment. The fourth part is the preparation of a literature review on a set topic. The fifth part is practice at data analysis. The sixth part is the preparation of a thesis or final project declaration.

4 credit hours

Lighting Workshop

The Lighting Workshop is a research and design studio integrating scholarship, technology, design, policy, and communication in an intensive, project specific context.

The Lighting Workshop includes a number of topics, selected each year by faculty. These topics are selected to:

  • Expose students to multiple faculty and their work at the LRC and introduce key guest lecturers to broaden understanding of the topics
  • Emphasize scholarship
  • Require a variety of written and verbal presentation techniques
  • Increase synthesizing skills in design, applications, and visualization software
  • Require teamwork and individual efforts
The students shall:
  • Locate and critically analyze information pertaining to particular lighting questions and issues
  • Review, synthesize, and communicate the essentials of such information to an interested audience
  • Understand and design lighting appropriate to specific locations, cultures, and objectives
  • Develop visual and oral communications skills including presentations, computer visualizations, and other graphic presentations
  • Understand and practice integrating research, evaluation, and design in design decision-making
  • Broaden their understanding of cultural and economic implications of design decisions
  • Develop teamwork skills
  • Understand environmental and resource accounting

The Lighting Workshop emphasizes studio and seminar work supplemented with lecture, class discussions, and individual and group research, design, writing, and reading assignments.

4 credit hours

Advanced Individual Projects in Lighting

Individual projects and readings adapted to the needs of individual students at the advanced level conducted under the guidance of a member of the LRC faculty.

1 to 6 credit hours

Lighting Leadership Seminar

A series of topics and case studies to prepare students for leadership roles in the lighting industry. Topics relate to product innovation and factors influencing changes of policy and processes in the lighting industry. Case studies examine selected topics in greater depth, using actual situations to illustrate interactions of technology and business forces. Visits by industry leaders provide additional insight.


This is the last formal course in the program. The course objective is to give students some formal assistance in making the transition from the LRC to the lighting industry. To this end, students receive an introduction to business concepts and meet some of the important leaders in lighting. Students also work in teams to perform case studies on two organizations within the world of lighting to apply the concepts of the course and develop in-depth, practical analyses.


The course is divided into three segments:

  1. Introduction to business concepts
    • Financial analysis: income statements, balance sheets, and cost/pricing impact
    • Marketing: product life cycle, value positioning, pricing, and promotion
    • Technology management: engineering, manufacturing, and quality
    • Organization theory: alternate structures, behavior models, and motivational/reward theory
    • Business strategy: balancing financial and market measures, value positioning, and company-competition-customer framework
  2. Leadership experiences
    • First-hand experiences, successes and failures, in the lighting business are retold by leaders in lighting. At least five leaders serve as guest speakers. Each describes his/her experience in running a business, bringing a product to market, or developing a program. Tactics, strategy, and vision are discussed with reference to the first segment of the course. Students prepare a written report of three to five pages after each presentation summarizing the key points articulated by the guest speaker.
  3. Case studies
    • Students work in teams to develop case studies of two organizations within the world of lighting: the LRC and the Litecontrol Corporation. The studies integrate the concept discussed in the first two segments of the course while evaluating each organization's strategies, business plans, value propositions, and performance measures. Further, students assess their own team's interpersonal dynamics throughout the duration of the studies.

4 credit hours

Master's Project

Active participation in an intensive student-initiated master's level project, under the supervision of a faculty adviser. The results are presented in a report and demonstrate the student's mastery of an area of lighting.

The LRC has both the facilities and the faculty to support a wide range of project topics. Students are encouraged to develop their own interests and build on their previous academic or professional experience. Project topics can be geared toward a research or a design aspect of lighting. Each student works closely with a faculty advisor on the development and execution of his or her master's project. The small size of the program allows each student to receive individualized attention.

1 to 8 credit hours