• Explore Membership
  • Career Development
  • Student Services
  • SPIE Member-Only Content
  • Corporate Membership
Print PageEmail Page

Jessica DeGroote Nelson

Research and Development Manager, Optimax Systems, Inc., USA
Country of birth: USA

Educational background: PhD, MS, and BS Optics, The Institute of Optics, University of Rochester, USA


Jessica DeGroote Nelson

What are the primary responsibilities of your current job?
I manage the R&D department at Optimax. Our research is focused on developing new processes and/or improving existing optical fabrication and testing processes to manufacture optical components. One of our largest current projects is developing the capability to polish transparent ceramic materials that are five-to-ten times harder and stronger than traditional
optical glass in free-form shapes. An example of a free-form optic would be a conformal window for airplanes. This window would be flush to the side of the aircraft, or on the underside of the wing following the same curvature as the airplane.

What is the biggest challenge you have overcome in your career?
My biggest challenge is incorporating R&D activities into our production. I believe R&D activities should not be segregated from the rest of the company and all our initiatives should not only impact the company in the future, but also immediately. In order to do this, the R&D department works closely with other departments sharing resources and knowledge. We work constantly on ways to promote collaboration between the different departments to improve processes.

What do you wish you had known when first starting out?
I was given a very valuable piece of advice from my high school guidance counselor to choose a degree where I could exit college with a job. I was lucky; I also happened to love the field that I went into. I will add one more piece of advice-choose a major where there will be jobs AND that you love!