An Push For Photonics

By Michigan Technological University (MTU) Student Chapter of OSA

On 10 November 2016, the Michigan Technological University (MTU) Student Chapter of OSA hosted a campus-wide outreach event with invited speakers representing a broad range of career paths within the field of photonics. Attending students had the opportunity to interact one-on-one with industry contacts and academic researchers across multiple disciplines. Student resumes and CVs were furnished to those who presented in exchange for their time and information regarding their respective institutions.

The motivation behind this event was to afford students a chance to see for themselves that there is a real need for photonics talent in both industry and academia. Our university hosts annually a large-scale career fair that is impressively attended by companies and job-seekers alike, but we seldom see much participation from the photonics community during this time. Other specialties such as power and systems engineering tend to have much better representation, a pattern which we believe contributes in part to students flocking toward those concentrations in their studies. We understand that the student body will naturally align its skills and abilities to the interests of potential employers, and our goal was to level the playing field somewhat by demonstrating a similar level of interest from professionals working in optics and photonics. We believe that this helps participants on both sides, as we see positive effects in the form of higher enrollment in our photonics curriculum, and businesses see our university as a rich source of possible candidates for hire. Furthermore, we take the stance that coming from a place of good faith and volunteerism serves to create a more open, inclusive environment as well as maintain a close-knit relationship between current students, alumni and visitors from outside organizations. The funds graciously awarded to our chapter by OSA through the Centennial Special Events Grant allowed us to offer small incentives to our guests who traveled long distances to join in the experience, and we weren’t required to charge companies the registration fees that often accompany industry networking events organized through Career Services or otherwise more traditional channels.

Invited talks included a keynote address on today’s landscape in optics from an Assistant Professor in the Department of Physics at MTU, a briefing of the photonics concentration by our Undergraduate Advisor in Electrical and Computer Engineering, and industry-focused presentations by an Application Development Professional at Dow Corning Corporation, an Application Engineer at OPTIS North America, a Systems Engineer from Integrity Applications Incorporated, Senior Engineers from both ThermoAnalytics, Inc. and Signature Research, Inc., an officer conducting photonics research with the United States Air Force, and an entrepreneurial startup agent with MTEC SmartZone. Mention was made of the OSA Centennial throughout the program, and the OSA Centennial logo was also displayed prominently on all advertising materials that were posted. Leftover funds were applied toward covering the costs of catering, which was instrumental in encouraging fluid networking time between sessions. Not only did students make ample use of this time for conversation, but discussions continued for more than an hour after the second session before the event concluded. Business cards and contact info were exchanged by many, and everyone who gave a talk received a small gift to show our gratitude for their contribution and cooperation. As indicated before, our location is a long trek from most business centers and research laboratories. We’re a remote campus that demands the hard work and dedication of particularly motivated students combined with the right sources of funding to make these events happen successfully. With that in mind, we wish to extend our sincerest thanks to OSA for their role in keeping us relevant in our field and supporting our continued presence in optics and photonics going forward.


Posted: 1 December 2016 by Michigan Technological University (MTU) Student Chapter of OSA | with 0 comments

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