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Education & Next Steps for Illumination Optics Day 2

Sandra A. Gutierrez Razo, University of Maryland

The first day of the OSA Illumination Optics Incubator focused on the state of illumination optics science and technology and ended with a look at the current state of the illumination optics community. Attendees discussed existing opportunities… conferences, journals, trainings… and explored the possibility of formalizing the discipline through programs, such as advanced degrees and dedicated conferences and journals. While many existing conferences were discussed, few include a focus on the full depth and breadth of illumination optics technologies. Additionally, as many advances in the field are coming from industry, a big challenge is that industry folks often cannot publish or share because of proprietary reasons.
Today’s session focused on education and next steps.
Illumination optics is growing as a field, but is lagging behind as a scientific and engineering discipline because there is no formal training, dedicated journal, conferences or degrees. There are very few academic and vocational courses, and also very few books dedicated to the subject. The attendees discussed whether there is a need for formalizing education in the discipline and if so, what is the best ways to do make it happen.
The corporate attendees unanimously stated that hiring recent graduates is challenging because there are limited illumination engineering courses being offered. New hires can require six months to a year of training on the job. Jannick Rolland from the University of Rochester showed some optics courses taught there, but said there is often low attendance for illumination optics engineering courses. Pablo Benitez from Universidad Politécnica de Madrid shared his experience hosting a week-long course on illumination optics design. Pablo said that most of the students were practicing engineers already in the field, but because there is so little formal education, professionals need further training. He saw that most companies are likely to support employees in skill acquisition, so short courses would go a long way to disseminate information in this discipline. Large imaging optics firms have internal training for their employees, but illumination optics engineers mostly have to rely on more experienced coworkers to answer questions and act as mentors internally.
What were the major take-aways?
The attendees agree that the three major items the industry has to work on are education, community building, and standardization. They would like to see more education in universities being steered toward practical skills so that recent graduates have more of the necessary knowledge and experience. Hands-on classroom experience, which would demonstrate the full production cycle to students from design to manufacturing, along with the welcoming of industry internships and site visits are just a few ways this gap could be closed. Community building is another major part that requires the industry’s active involvement. People would like to be more of an integrated community, instead of dispersed global competitors.  Companies can foster this communication through public or internal forums that offer support, and by increasing participation at showcase exhibitions to trouble shoot face-to-face without the need for publications, while also demonstrating the power of illumination to the public. Finally, everyone agreed the industry as a whole would benefit from standardization in characterization, metrology and simulation data. Standards from the ophthalmic or imaging community may be borrowed, but something is needed for industry leaders to come to an understanding about the state of the art for generating source models, characterizing surface interactions, and providing the consumer with consistent and accurate measurements and representation.
Fortunately, OSA has many ways to help this community come together and grow ranging from tutorials and short courses, to technical publications and technical groups to technical and industry events. There are plans to continue the dialog and expand on the community discussing these challenges and being involved in the solutions by taking advantage of these opportunities.

Incubator attendees (with OSA Science Advisor Tom Hausken beaming in from CA).

Pablo Benitez, Universidad Politécnica de Madrid, discusses what exists - and what more is needed - in educating engineers in illumination optics.

From California, OSA Science Advisor Tom Hausken chats with attendees during a break. 

Image for keeping the session alive