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Careers in photonics/lasers

  1. Apr 8, 2014 #1
    I am about to commit to a PhD program in chemical physics, focusing on ultrafast laser technology and possible applications to chemical/materials analysis. The professor has already outlined my project and I'll get to learn optical and electronics design. The actual application, however, doesn't seem to be in any industrial demand.

    I'd just like a realistic heads up on what the job market is currently like, since my previous graduate background is in condensed matter.
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 8, 2014 #2


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    I was told by my MSc supervisor that job market for laser physics PhD's is very good in the UK.

    It's application is everywhere but subtle at the same time. For example, if people want to design micro structure on a piece of teflon, you probably want to cut it with femto second laser, otherwise it would melt all over the place. A lot of sorting systems for agricultural produce are starting to develop optical screening methods. The company I worked with during my PhD is designing strain gauge using fibre optics.

    A lot of the stuff is still in design stages in academic institutes, but the more matured applications have already crept into the industries. The problem I see is that employers won't necessarily say they want people who specialized in laser physics/photonics/optoelectronics/etc. They can train someone with an electrical engineering degree who is, for example, very good with signal processing. So the job markets are there, but its not exclusive for us.

    edit: forgot to mention, take a look in SPIE careers
  4. Apr 9, 2014 #3
    Thanks for pointing me to SPIE careers. Your suggestion helps greatly.

    In your studies, did you focus on developing the technology, or finding the applications? I looked over SPIE careers and many laser jobs seem to require specific application knowledge or experience in areas not directly related to lasers such as fab experience. How do you acquire these skills if the professor doesn't allow you to use the laser for anything other than his specific application? Even postdocs seem to only hire people to do things they already know how to do.
  5. Apr 9, 2014 #4


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    In my degrees a lot of it is related to the current research within the department. Some academic staff let us borrow their lasers as long as they trust us not to break things. As for job requirements, I think they expect job seekers to get them from the training of previous jobs, which does lead to chicken and egg problems a lot of graduates are facing these days...
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