"As electronics was the technology of the 20th century,
Photonics is the technology of the 21st"
- Eric Van Stryland
former President, Optical Society of
America and former Dean, UCF College of Optics & Photonics
About Optics & Photonics
Although the study of light has been underway for centuries, it is only
in the last 40 years that optics and photonics has become a dominant
field, with impact in almost every aspect of our lives, from
entertainment, to medicine, to defense, to communications. In the 20th
century, electronics was the dominant influencing technology, enabled by
optics. The 21st century is the "Age of Light", a century
that will have optics and photonics as the dominant influencing
technology, enabled in some cases by electronics.
Why Study Optics and Photonics?
Einstein is quoted as frequently saying after the initial formulation of
the General Theory of Relativity, "For the rest of my life I want to
reflect on what light is." For those interested in science and
engineering, the field of optics and photonics provides a wealth of
interesting and challenging study opportunities, and a wide variety of
satisfying career paths. From basic research to applied engineering, to
manufacturing operations, almost every field of endeavor is or will be
influenced by optics and photonics.
What are the career opportunities in optics and photonics?
A Graduate degree in optics and photonics science and engineering will
prepare you for almost any career opportunity. A few examples:
- Communications " telecom systems, cell phones, displays
- Medicine " diagnostics, therapies, gene modification, drug
- Sensing " satellite and astronomical imaging, security systems,
- Manufacturing " process control, laser machining, semiconductor fab
- Security and defense " guidance & control, displays, weapons
- Research " university faculty, industrial & government scientist
What is a typical graduate optics & photonics curriculum?
Some schools offer courses as part of a degree in physics, electrical
engineering, or other degrees. A few schools offer degrees in optical
science and engineering. A typical course of study will include the
- Physical optics
- Geometric optics
- Lasers & opto-electronics
- Fiber optics
- Fourier Optics and Imaging theory
What should I consider in choosing a graduate school?
There are several factors that will contribute significantly to your
total educational experience:
- Breadth and depth of courses offered in optics and photonics, but
also in other departments at the host university
- Quality and quantity of optics and photonics research conducted
Reputation of the faculty, and of the institution
- Connection with industry, which provides insight into applications,
emerging needs, possible internships & collaborations
Where can I find out more about optics and photonics graduate
programs and career opportunities?
The international optical societies, particularly
and OSA, provide a
directory of programs. SPIE has a searchable directory on the web at
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