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 degree in optics and photonics science and engineering will prepare you for a wide range of career opportunities spanning diverse industries, technologies and research areas. A few examples:
- Communications: telecom systems, cell phones, displays
- Medicine: diagnostics, therapies, gene modification, drug development
- Sensing: satellite and astronomical imaging, security systems, cameras
- Manufacturing: process control, laser machining, semiconductor fab
- Security and defense: guidance & control, displays, weapons
- Research: university faculty, industrial & government scientist
What is a typical 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 following:
- 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
What should I consider in choosing an undergraduate program?
Undergraduates deciding where to attend college or what major to choose should consider these key factors:
- Career paths that are interesting and exciting to you personally
- Quality of teaching facilities and student to faculty ratio
- Extracurricular opportunities for undergraduates and the culture of the program
- Reputation of the institution among graduate programs and industry professionals for future steps in your career