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Possible Through Light: perspectives from early-career professionals

Ashley Collier, Corporate Communications Manager, Optica

Institutions across the globe are educating future engineers and physicists in optical sciences. The career possibilities in the optical sciences are endless. One can pursue a career in medical optics, optical communications, electro-optics, laser engineering and more. As we commemorate the International Day of Light, we asked early career professionals their perspectives on this initiative and why they pursued a career in the optics. 

On 16 May we will celebrate the International Day of Light, how did you come to the decision to study optics and photonics?
Alireza Fardoost, University of Central Florida, CREOL
I study optics and photonics because it shapes the philosophy of my life:
Enjoy the moment, your life can change so fast (Ultrafast Optics),  
We are so tiny in the massive universe (Astrophysics),  
Minuscule things can have huge impacts (Integrated Photonics),  
See the world with all its beauties and details (Imaging and Displays),  
Human connections are as fragile as optical fiber (Optical Communications), 
Focus on your goals (High-power Lasers),  
The nonlinearities of your life can amplify your success (Nonlinear optics),  
There is no hiding from your soulmate with an entangled heart (Quantum Optics)

What is your research area and what do you enjoy about working in this area?

Jaya Sagar, University of Bristol
"I am working on high performance satellite quantum key distribution transmitters. I am developing the optical payload for a nanosatellite in Lower earth orbit to communicate to a mobile optical ground station. I am also looking into efficient intersattelite links for a global quantum network. I find it so inspiring that a teeny-tiny single photon makes a long journey through the space and atmosphere into the focussing lens at the telescope and still manages to keep the information encoded on it. Every time I am flying, I look out of the window to imagine the journey of a photon in the night sky, and it makes me fall in love with my work even more."

Gabriel Nunes, Instituto de Estudos Avançados - CTA
“I study optical fiber sensors. The thing I most enjoy about this area is the vast amount of applications, basically, every piece of equipment in need of a better sensor is in need of some optical sensor.” 

What is it like to be a optics and photonics student today? How do you think the approach has changed through the years?
Sanchita Sharan, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology

“It is fascinating to study this cutting-edge field that is making exciting new advances by the day. I’m glad to be a part of it now since I see the field thriving in the future. I cannot say much about how the approach has changed over the years, but students today have tremendous access to a field rich with theoretical research and their various novel applications.” 

What is your research area and what do you enjoy about working in this area?
Emma Branigan, Technological University Dublin
“I’m developing an analog holographic wavefront sensor with potential applications for both ophthalmology and free space optical communications, where high temporal resolution is required. I love all aspects of my PhD work because it is so varied, and I can choose what I spend my time on each day. I’ve learned a lot about material science from the holography aspect of the project and equally gained skills in electronics, programming, 3D printing, and numerical modeling from the sensing side of things.”   

Where do you see the largest impact of the photonics industry in the future?
Sanchita Sharan, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology
“I think I won’t be exaggerating in saying there isn’t a field that won’t be influenced by the photonics industry, be it quantum computing, AI, microscopy, lithography, LIDAR, ultrafast lasers, photonics integrated circuits, solar energy or any of the numerous fields that play such a vital role in advancing the science of today.” 

How will you celebrate the International Day of Light 2023?
Gabriel Nunes, Instituto de Estudos Avançados - CTA
“I will celebrate the International Day of Light by performing experiments for the kids in my family. A scientific magic show can be presented to them with just a laser beam, a line thread and some scattering medium.” 

About the International Day of Light
The International Day of Light (IDL), celebrated annually on 16 May, is a global initiative highlighting the central role that light and light-based technologies play across science, culture, education, and sustainable development, in areas as diverse as medicine, communications, and energy. The 16 May date honors the anniversary of the first successful demonstration of a laser by physicist and engineer Theodore Maiman in 1960; the broad theme of light allows many different sectors of society worldwide to participate in activities that demonstrate how science, technology, and art, can help achieve the goals of UNESCO: education, equality, and peace.



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