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what are 5-10 specific things you do as a photonics engineer?

I've been looking into many engineering paths and one that interests me is photonics, and i was wondering what are some things/projects that you work with on a daily basis. Also do you work independently or with a team.

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Floyd’s Answer

Hi Brody, great question and great topic to be interested in!

All roles will differ to a degree depending on the company, team size etc. but I found this resource to be super helpful on giving you some high level info! https://www.careerexplorer.com/careers/photonics-engineer/

I hope you find it helpful. Another thing you could do, is reach out to some Photonics Engineer's on LinkedIn and let them know you're interested in stepping into the industry and would appreciate their advice - I am sure many would be glad to offer you lots of advice on how to get into the field, what it entails and how to be successful!
Thank you comment icon Thank you for the advice, Floyd. brody
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Joseph’s Answer

I'm a radiation physicist, which in some ways is a very similar discipline as we deal in photons too, but with gamma rays being considerably higher energy photons than most photonics applications we can be quite different. I imagine many of the broad kinds of things we do are similar, but the specifics of how is where it can get quite different.

First off, I'll start by agreeing with Floyd; there'll be a massive variation of specifics between different roles and different companies. Between working in laser diode manufacturing, to photonics in a research environment, or a photonics sensor company or others, there's likely to be a whole range of different activities - some places will focus on particular aspects, others will have you doing lots of different areas.

Some roles might be around a laboratory optical bench test type environment and involve testing lasers, lenses, sensors, optical fibers etc. Others might be a bit larger scale and involve integrating photonic devices into larger systems or products. Many will have elements of writing documentation, whether it's user manuals, test reports, manufacturing schedules or something else. There's lots of applications of spectral information, so just like radiation physics, spectroscopy is a huge area in photonics too, and you could be examining spectral data or handling data in software and doing a bit of coding. Many things require calculations and estimations so a lot of work is likely to involve spreadsheets or modelling software too.

As to teamworking, most roles you will be part of a team, but what that entails depends on the role and size of company. In some roles you might be part of a large team of photonics engineers and tackle problems in small groups, but many roles you'll be part of a wider multidisciplinary team working on a project, and you might be the only or one of two photonics engineers, so for your specific tasks, you'll be working very independently, but you'll have to work with the rest of the team to pull other aspects of the project together.
Thank you comment icon thank you so much helps a lot brody
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George’s Answer

If you work in the telecommunications industry, here are some tasks that you might perform:

1. You might be part of a product development team that works to create an opto-electonic device to solve some problem: achieve higher bandwidth or create a different type of network element. You could be involved in measuring the performance of the device and perhaps its reliability as well.

2. If you work in a company that designs and creates networks, you might be involved in assessing and selecting devices for use. Again, you may test their performance or you may build the networks and test their performance and deliver them to customers. This could involve a lot of travel within your home country or around the world.

3. In any job setting, you will likely participate in meetings and collaborate with peers to accomplish the team's goals. Learning to negotiate rationally, support your team members, and work within a group will be valuable.

4. You will likely present your work or your proposals throughout your career -- either to your leadership, co-workers, or even customers. Being able to present technical concepts to others who are not familiar with your work will be important.

5. Photonics engineers and almost all professionals will be taking classes during your whole career. These can cover new technologies and techniques; or new work paradigms like Agile, DevOps, Platform Engineering; or collaboration skills such as change management, emotional intelligence and empathy, or Design Thinking.
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