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Weeklong Bootcamp Provides Hands-On Experience in Integrated Photonics

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CAMBRIDGE, Mass., Feb. 27, 2020 — A weeklong integrated photonics bootcamp, offered by MIT as part of its work with the manufacturing institute AIM Photonics, provided students with the opportunity to solve problems using lab equipment to test passive photonic chips, preparing them for challenges they could face on the job. The curriculum was built by professor Lionel Kimerling’s team. Kimerling, a faculty member at MIT, is the founding director of the MIT Microphotonics Center. The bootcamp, which took place in January, was led by Anu Agarwal, principal research scientist at the materials research lab and leader of the lab for education and application prototypes (LEAP) at MIT.

Bootcamp student and Bridgewater State University professor, Elif Demirbas, learning how to perform grating coupling from a fiber to a chip with instruction from Robin Singh, while Phillip Wilcox, an engineer from U.S. Army CCDC, looks on. Courtesy of MIT.
Bootcamp student and Bridgewater State University professor Elif Demirbas (left) learns how to perform grating coupling from a fiber to a chip with instruction from Robin Singh, while Phillip Wilcox, an engineer from the U.S. Army CCDC, observes.

The curriculum included: 
  • Coupling of fiber to an on-chip waveguide, specifically, coupling light into a silicon-on-insulator (SOI) chip using butt coupling and grating coupling.
  • Measurement of integrated photonic devices, specifically, data collection from straight waveguides, spirals, and ring resonators.
  • Basic concepts, including transverse electric/transverse magnetic (TE/TM) modes, confinement, evanescence, and on-chip guiding.
  • Virtual lab offering game-based educational simulation to build intuition about on-chip light propagation.
  • Data analysis, using MATLAB, to characterize devices based on real data.
  • Software design tool simulations, covering principles of design of integrated photonic devices and design for test (DfT).
  • Introduction to integrated photonic packaging including solar cell and laser die packaging.
(r) to (l): Professor Samuel Serna trains Joseph Coffey, an engineer at CommScope; Shengtao Yu, a graduate student from Georgia Institute of Technology; and Liron Gantz, an engineer from Mellanox, to characterize integrated photonic devices. Courtesy of MIT.
Professor Samuel Serna (far right) trains students to characterize integrated photonic devices. Courtesy of MIT.

A diverse group of engineers, composed of industry veterans, graduate students, and college professors,  attended the bootcamp, and one-quarter of the participants were women. As part of its work with AIM Academy, MIT will offer its next bootcamp on May 6-8, 2020.

The educators who put together the bootcamp said that a dearth of trained engineers and technicians in the photonic integrated circuit (PIC) industry has created a skills gap, leading to unfilled jobs — and job opportunities. “For our target audiences, our workforce-needs studies had shown that electronics industry retraining would be the most significant near-term market,” Kimerling said. “We did not anticipate that integrated photonics was also a paradigm change for the traditional telecom/datacom photonics industry.”
Feb 2020
A sub-field of photonics that pertains to an electronic device that responds to optical power, emits or modifies optical radiation, or utilizes optical radiation for its internal operation. Any device that functions as an electrical-to-optical or optical-to-electrical transducer. Electro-optic often is used erroneously as a synonym.
optical communications
The transmission and reception of information by optical devices and sensors.
Research & TechnologyeducationAmericasMassachusetts Institute of TechnologyAIM Photonics Academyintegrated photonicssilicon photonicsphotonic integrated circuitsmaterialsoptoelectronicsmicroelectronicsCommunicationsoptical communicationsindustrialLionel Kimerlingnew collar workforceworkforce

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