National Photonics Initiative, University of Arizona host Rep. Barber

Congressman sees first-hand the positive impact of photonics on local, national economy

15 August 2013

Ann Weaver Hart, Tom Koch, Ron Barber

Rep. Ron Barber (third from left) talks with UA staff including University of Arizona President Ann Weaver Hart and Dean of the College of Optics Tom Koch during a visit this week to learn more about photonics and the work of the college.


National Photonics Initiative

TUCSON, Arizona, USA -- Yesterday, Rep. Ron Barber (D-Arizona) toured the University of Arizona's College of Optical Sciences and learned about the myriad technologies and job opportunities the science and application of light makes possible. During his visit, the congressman met with students, faculty and local business leaders to discuss the benefits of photonics and the role that the University of Arizona is playing in solving the challenges of a modern world by harnessing the power of light.

"It was a privilege to host Rep. Barber today and demonstrate the integral role optics and photonics play in making our everyday lives possible," said Thomas Koch, dean of the College of Optical Sciences. "We appreciate the congressman's interest in our program and the work he has done on behalf of the university and our district. Today was a wonderful opportunity to showcase how the College of Optical Sciences prepares young talent to thrive professionally and grow Arizona's economy."

The University of Arizona's College of Optical Sciences provides the state of Arizona and the nation with an internationally pre-eminent program in education, research and outreach in all aspects of the science and application of light. The school seeks to fulfill an acute, national need for more highly trained engineers and physicists in the optical sciences. Today, it educates more students in optics than any institution in the United States, and its vital research program has a proven track record of spawning innovation and economic development.

Southern Arizona has a particular strength in precision optical components and lenses, one of the fastest growing segments of the industry at 16 percent per year, and Arizona's employment in this sector has more than doubled in the new millennium while other regions of the country have remained constant or seen sharp declines. Other areas of strength or opportunity in Arizona include photovoltaics, optical communications and biomedical imaging and instrumentation.

"It is an honor for me to join the University of Arizona in learning about the National Photonics Initiative (NPI). I am proud that my alma mater, the UA, has one of the top colleges of optical sciences in the country. New opportunities and investments in photonics offer the potential for economic growth and job development and will help position the United States as a global technology leader," said Rep. Barber.

Historically, the United States has been the world leader in deploying photonics research to power cutting-edge technologies, but global competition has put our leadership position at risk, causing a substantial loss of global market share to overseas competitors as well as thousands of US jobs. A 2006 study conducted by the University of Arizona estimated that the photonics industry in Arizona employed more than 25,000 individuals and produced $2 billion in revenue, growing by a factor of 10 in the preceding decade. More recent studies suggest that this number has dropped significantly across the state while remaining relatively constant in Pima County, in spite of the fact that optics and photonics is one of the world's fastest growing industries.

Through the National Photonics Initiative (NPI), University of Arizona is working to raise awareness about photonics and unite academia, industry and government experts to identify and advance areas of photonics critical to maintaining US competitiveness and national security: advanced manufacturing, communication and information technology, defense and national security, energy, and health and medicine. The NPI recently released a white paper, "Lighting the Path to a Competitive, Secure Future," which contained recommendations for increased investment in photonics research; greater collaboration between academia, industry and government; and a focused effort to train skilled workers for the increasing number of jobs in the field of optics and photonics. A global leader in optics and photonics education, the University of Arizona is a prime example of how the NPI's goals can be realized through education, research and public-private partnerships

ABOUT THE NPI: The National Photonics Initiative (NPI) is a collaborative alliance among industry, academia and government seeking to raise awareness of photonics and the impact of photonics on our everyday lives; increase cooperation and coordination among US industry, government and academia to advance photonics-driven fields; and drive US funding and investment in areas of photonics critical to maintaining US economic competitiveness and national security. The initiative is being led by a coalition of scientific societies, including the American Physical Society (APS), the IEEE Photonics Society, the Laser Institute of America (LIA), the Optical Society (OSA) and SPIE, the International Society for Optics and Photonics. For more information, visit


Emily Pappas
+1 202 448 5208