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SPIE Professional October 2009

Bonus, Web-only content

Optics Extends Reach

New optics programs and centers reach out beyond traditional borders.

By Beth Kelley

Melikechi NoureddineGrowth in the fields of optics and photonics is widespread, both geographically and in scope. New optics programs in higher education are acutely aware of this and are working collaboratively with other institutions and industry to train future optical technicians and engineers.

Delaware State University's Center for Research and Education in Optical Sciences (CREOSA) has had great success reaching out to different populations since its inception in 2006. The overarching goal of CREOSA has been to reach out to groups typically underrepresented in college programs, including optics. So far CREOSA has enrolled 22 undergraduates. With the launch of a graduate program last year, approximately a dozen grad students have enrolled as well, about half from underrepresented groups.

"A large number of our students are first generation college students; a few are war veterans," says Noureddine Melikechi, CREOSA director.

One of five Advanced Technology Centers at Delaware State University, CREOSA's goal is to build a sustainable center that would contribute to new technologies, train a workforce for the 21st century, and develop partnerships with high schools and other academic institutions.

"Our aim is to be one of the main players and contributors to the field of biophotonics," says Melikechi. This has included tripling the number of faculty members with expertise in optical sciences since CREOSA's inception.

CREOSA's outreach and promotion of optics includes hosting summer programs that cater to undergraduates and high school teachers alike, as well as providing outreach to local schools and working with high tech companies to better prepare students for the workforce.

SPIE is assisting that effort with a donation of reference books and other support.

Students and faculty at CREOSA

Students, staff, and faculty at Delaware State University's Center for Research and Education in Optical Sciences (CREOSA).

Europe's Efforts

In Europe, the European Commission is funding the Erasmus Mundus program which recruits students from all over the world, including developing countries, to be educated in several European universities. A master of science degree in photonics requires students to take courses in at least two different countries.

Organized by Ghent University (Belgium), participating universities include Free University of Brussels (Belgium), St. Andrews University and Heriot-Watt University (U.K.), Royal Institute of Technology (Sweden), Zhejiang University (China), University of Tokyo (Japan) and the University of Sydney (Australia). The first cohort of students to go through the program graduated last summer.

The European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) is also striving to foster a highly trained technology workforce in the EU. It is working from outside academia to collaborate within. Headquartered in Budapest, Hungary, the mission of the EIT is to support, encourage, and capitalize on the innovation capacity and capability of people working within higher education, research, and business from the EU and beyond. The new institution is creating "Knowledge and Innovation Communities" and is expected to be up and running by 2010.

Participating higher education institutions will offer masters and PhD degrees and business partners will benefit directly from education programs that integrate entrepreneurship, innovation and risk management.

Economic Development and Education Programs

Tying into industry and the current job market is a big goal for educational institutions with optics and photonics programs.

Francis Takahashi and other Hawaii educators were interested in developing new curricula that would prepare Hawaii's students for high-tech careers in optics and photonics and enable them to stay in the islands to pursue high-paying jobs. Working through the New England Board of Higher Education PHOTON2 project (which included a workshop held at SPIE Optics+Photonics in 2006), these educators began offering two-year optics degrees in 2007 at Kauai Community College and Maui Community College and courses at regional high schools.

Maui Community College has taken these classes a step further. Two new courses in optics are being offered at MCC for the first time this school year. These courses, intermediate optics and engineering computing, and others will eventually lead to a bachelor of applied science in engineering technology degree from the University of Hawaii system.

Mark Hoffman, program coordinator and assistant professor at the Electronics and Computer Engineering Technology Program at MCC, has said up to 12 students are currently ready to apply for the new bachelor's degree program, developed in partnership with the University of Hawaii Institute for Astronomy Maui and the University of California Santa Cruz.

Students entering the new program will benefit from access to the University of Hawaii's Institute for Astronomy Maui's Advanced Technology Research Center lab, the Faulkes telescope, and a donated P6 super computer.

"I think one of the key components in developing new programs like this is collaboration with industry and economic development agencies. I know this was an important component for the Hawaii schools," says Fenna Hanes, NEBHE PHOTON2 project director.

Takahashi and other educators work together at a workshop hosted at NEBHE PHOTON2

Francis Takahashi and other educators work together at a PBL Summer Workshop hosted at Boston University, 2008. (Published with the permission of NEBHE and the PHOTON PBL project.)

Renewable Energy

Babson College (MA) Fast Track MBA Program and Oregon Institute of Technology's Renewable Energy Engineering Program are piloting a partnership this year to explore business application for renewable energy technologies.

In the pilot program, Babson MBA students in the U.S. Northwest can collaborate with engineering students at the Oregon Institute of Technology's Portland campus to address business challenges of projects focused on renewable energy products, services or systems. The Oregon students are enrolled in the Renewable Energy Engineering (REE) program, the first BS degree of its kind in the United States.

The goal is to encourage entrepreneurship and innovation among students that could potentially result in commercializing new green technologies. Students joined forces to address business and technical challenges for their teams this summer and will work collaboratively in the spring of 2010.
Another new "green" program focusing on optics and photonics is at University of California Irvine. The new Specialized Studies in Sustainable Buildings: Renewable Energy Management program was introduced this school year. It includes three new elective courses under the existing certificate program in Sustainability Leadership.

Addressing a variety of alternative and renewable energy technologies, courses will focus on creating green buildings and retrofitting older buildings with energy-saving technologies.

Rochester Lab Off to a Good Start

In just three years of operation, the Rochester Imaging Detector Lab (RIDL) at the Rochester Institute of Technology has earned a national reputation for advancing detector technology. The goal of the lab is to conceptualize products and see them through all the way to deployment, using a "readiness" scale created by the U.S. Department of Defense to gauge their progress

Since its founding in 2006, RIDL has created key partnerships with University of Rochester, MIT, Sandia National Labs, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, NASA, and other institutions across the United States. SPIE member Donald Figer is director.

--Beth Kelley is an SPIE editor.

Have a question or comment about this article? Write to us at spieprofessional@spie.org

DOI: 10.1117/2.4200910.16

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