As part of our annual List Issue, we survey readers about a variety of issues impacting the photonics industry. This year, many of you responded with thoughts about your work with light, technology wish lists and advice for recent graduates.
In honor of the International Year of Light, what excites you most about your work?
The many and varied applications of all the customers and colleagues over the years. From bathymetry to altimetry, to Naval mine-hunting, to missions like Clementine and NEAR, and so many more. Each provides interesting technical challenges and the chance to meet so many dedicated people in this world solving some of the most interesting problems. Each day is a new challenge and hence, never boring; never the “same old thing.”
Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems
The opportunity to visualize the invisible and see the unseen.
Peter Sandwall, PhD
Vantage Oncology LLC
That any and every instrument that is photonic (light/optical) in nature has a mechanical superstructure that was designed and created by mechanical engineers and mechanical designers.
Roger S. Reiss, Engineer
Reaching teachers who educate the youngsters about the science and future of light!
Laser Classroom LLC
Multiplicity of applications, edge-cutting technologies, enabling technologies. With the same technology, for instance lasers (of course different ones), you can develop a weapon that is energy-directed, create wonderful shows, make eye surgery, skin treatment, etc.
ITG Conseil SAS
The way photonics companies collaborate with many external partners to develop new products.
Light poverty now affects an estimated 18 percent of the world’s population. Photo courtesy of Philips Lighting.
What excites us about our work with light is improving the fortunes of those suffering light poverty. We’re working hard to end light poverty and bring illumination to more people around the world.
(@philipslight, via Twitter)
Light is fundamental to physics, life, society, communication, perception — what is there not to be excited about?!
Ibsen Photonics AS
(@kjbuchwald, via Twitter)
We are excited that our spectrometers help solve environmental and health issues every day. And that our diffraction gratings enable energy, medical and communications solutions every day.
Ibsen Photonics AS
(@ibsenphotonics, via Twitter)
Empowering people with knowledge.
Joseph Robertson, visual
(@josephrobertson, via Twitter)
ADVICE FOR GRADS:
Do you have any advice, photonics or otherwise, for recent graduates?
Follow in the direction of the elders but carve your own path; if you think differently than others, it doesn’t mean you don’t know. Thinking out of the box sometimes solves old problems, and fresh minds bring new ideas. Say what you have but tell it to yourself first to hear how it sounds — if you are not sure and don’t want to appear dumb, say it in a form of a question, and your confidence will grow with every correct answer and so will your experience.
Learn from everything because lessons are everywhere. Don’t burn any bridges. There are too few in the world, and they take decades to rebuild. Be a person of principles. People matter. Honesty is the only way. Honor confidences. Respect everyone. As Jimmy Durante said, “Be kind to people on your way up — you may need them on your way down.”
Ray Williamson Consulting,
Optics and Electro-Optics
Never stop learning.
Show up prepared to work. Nothing is handed to you in life.
Power Technology Inc.
Do more than you’re asked. Exceed expectations.
Kelly Hunt Lyon
It’s never too early (or too late) to develop business relationships with others in your profession. Attending events and genuinely showing an interest in another’s work is a great place to start.
Justin M. Sierchio, PhD
University of North Carolina
at Chapel Hill
There are many exciting startups in this domain. This technology is clearly on the move and you need to be where everything happens!
Erwin De Baetselier
Think of every task as a project: What are the requirements and what are my resources? Ask that question to whoever gives you an assignment, and even of those assignments you give yourself.
You can learn things from people who know less than you. Treat every interaction as a learning moment, and don’t turn off, even when you think you already know more than the person you’re speaking with. Corollary: There’s always someone smarter than you — even if you are the smartest person in the room on a particular subject. Almost nothing gets done if only one person or group is involved.
Mountain Optical Systems Technology
For that first job, don’t hold out for your dream position. Work experience is perhaps the most important thing. Hard work and a good work ethic will give you the best grounding as you strive for your goal.
Entering the workforce means more than being a good engineer. Essential qualities such as trustworthiness must be sharpened to be an effective professional. To succeed as an engineer or scientist today, you must integrate values such as integrity, fairness, compassion and respect into your workplace.
Marc D. Himel
Jenoptik Optical Systems
Communicate clearly! You may be a genius, but if you cannot communicate, then all your knowledge is constrained to your head, and what you personally do. If you can communicate effectively, then you tap the collective capabilities of collaborators worldwide.
Technology Wish List:
Is there a technology (real or imaginary) on your wish list?
It’s new photonics technology!
Thakral College of Technology
Optical cavity storage drives.
University of New Mexico
I want a low-cost, stripped-down ray tracing add-on to SolidWorks. I’ve used both OptisWorks and LightTools, and they’re both amazing programs, but there is a huge need (in my mind at least) to provide an optics tool that is lightweight, intuitive and integrates with optomechanical systems design. There is also a huge number of mechanical engineers who work with optics and optical engineers who, on a daily basis, would benefit from being able to see and manipulate rays themselves.
Kris Young, Optomechanical Consultant
Ibsen Photonics AS
(@kjbuchwald, via Twitter)
I can’t wait to have III-V materials available as part of regular full-flow MPW [multiproject wafer] silicon photonics fabrication runs, like at IME, imec and LETI. We could make lasers, amplifiers, etc. on chip. Presently this is only within the realm of several R&D groups around the world and not widely available.
University of British Columbia
Somewhat realistic wishes for the future are wafer-scale electronic-photonic process flows, including all optical functionalities (also laser), and both high-speed and energy-efficient electronics (somewhat like Lukas’ wish). A more “imaginary” wish is that such a chip could handle wavelengths from the ultraviolet to the mid-infrared.
A 1-petabyte optical drive with a 100-year storage life.
Nanophotonics Research Engineer
(@methos2010, via Twitter)
On my optics wish list: One-way windows, in the dark, for spying on creatures of the night from the comfort of my home.