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RIT Studies Photonics Workforce Development

University of Rochester

Researchers at RIT are using a $400,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to learn how to better prepare students for jobs in the photonics and optics industry.

Post-doctoral researcher Anne Leak said the team is interviewing more than a hundred technicians, engineers, supervisors and human resource personnel to find out what skills are used on the job at small to mid-sized photonics companies in Rochester.        

"We're trying to be really open-ended in the beginning and ask, 'What makes someone a great worker here? ', or when talking to the new hires themselves, 'What did you find in school that really helped you with this job?’ "

Leak said if the study finds some common trends, they could be used to better prepare students for photonics careers within their core curriculum.

RIT assistant Physics professor Bern Zwickl says existing surveys from companies give a broad view of skills needed to work in photonics, optics and other STEM fields, but researchers involved in this study want to dig deeper.           

"So many of the claims right now are overgeneralized. They'll talk about Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics jobs as though they were one homogenous unit, and the diversity of skills and knowledge required to succeed in those can vary a lot, just as the expectations of employers can vary a lot, too."

The newphotonicshubis expected to bring thousands of jobs to the region.