What does a photonics engineer do?
A Photonics Engineer — a “photon” is a unit of light — designs lasers. In science fiction, lasers are shot out of guns and cannons, used to vaporize opponents and commit acts of intergalactic war. In reality, however, lasers aren’t lightsabers used to defend the universe; they’re tools that utilize intense beam-like light to generate energy and transmit information. A Photonics Engineer creates real-life lasers for use in industries as diverse as telecommunications, defense, manufacturing, and health care.
As a Photonics Engineer in the field of telecommunications, for instance, you specialize in fiber optics, designing lasers that emit light, which carries information across long distances and at high bandwidths — just like metal wire, but faster and more reliable. In health care, on the other hand, you design lasers that are used to perform precise surgeries.
In the military, meanwhile, you create lasers that assist in navigation and targeting. And in manufacturing, you create lasers for the purpose of aligning, marking, and cutting raw materials.
Whatever the industry, it’s your job to design and modify laser equipment and components, including fiber optics technology. You also develop new and improved ways to create, modulate, measure, and use laser-generated light. In addition, you devise better and more cost-effective methods for manufacturing lasers and fiber optics material.
Like all Engineers, you use math and science for the purpose of design, which requires a great deal of planning, theorizing, developing, testing, and revising. Because you work with lasers, however, you, more than almost any other kind of Engineer, are on the cutting edge, where your favorite expression might as well be, “Let there be light!”