Photonics: The next generation | Part five: Sakib Adnan

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For the photonics industry to attract – and retain – the best talent, answering this question is critical. 

That’s why, for the Day of Photonics on 21 October, Electro Optics spoke with people at the start of their careers.

We're looking to find out what’s important to them in their work – and how photonics organisations can meet their needs.

The last in this series is Sakib Adnan, Optical Engineer, Oz Optics 

What led you to choosing a career in photonics?

I came to the University of Alberta and my major was in communication engineering. After six months I started studying in the field of wireless communications, and following a discussion with my professor, exploring his photonics lab, and reading some photonics research papers, I decided that I wanted to switch career paths from wireless communication to photonics. 

It was a combined effect of what I was observing around me – there were at least four or five good photonics labs at our university – together with conversations with peers and professors who all had experience in photonics (and who were all very supportive) that led me to choosing photonics as a career. I would say having good photonics labs at your university is definitely a key influencing factor that encourages people to join the photonics industry.

Photonics is a really good subject to explore because it has a lot of branches. You can go into areas such as communications, biomedical, laser science, or even quantum physics. 

It’s also an incredibly powerful and impactful field. Photonics changes the way we do things in countless applications and industries – such as how we communicate or perform biomedical tasks. I think around 18 people who have one the Nobel Prize so far have been working with laser technologies, which helps demonstrate just how significant the field of photonics is. 

So all these reasons, in addition to how exotic the technology can be, are why I chose photonics as a career. 

What challenges does photonics present? 

In photonics your skills have to go beyond just memorising things, you also have to have the skill of being able to explain something. For example, if I have worked on a model of a laser, this isn’t something that can simply be explained by reading a book. You have to understand what’s there, what’s going on, how to visualise it, and only then can you explain it to other people.

In addition, the challenges in working with light are that extreme precision is constantly required, especially in optical design – the field I’m currently working in. The components can be very complex, meaning a certain skill set is required to to actually bring them together and make them in the right manner. I’ve heard a saying since I’ve been in the photonics industry: ‘once a person can perform optical alignment, they can do anything in life’. This is because getting light through a small coupler can be so gruesome and take hours…it teaches you a lot. 

I enjoy the challenges in photonics, I enjoy what I can do with it. I see the potential of it, I can work in any kind of research field, so that's what motivates me to stay on this path.

Where could it take you in the future?

As I said previously, the opportunities with photonics are endless. If I get the chance, I want to make photonics more familiar at the academic level in Bangladesh (my country of origin) or any of the developing countries. Moreover, with the expanding photonics industry, it would be great if I get the opportunity to develop a photonics-based industrial sector in those countries. Lastly, for my personal career, In the future – five to eight years from now – I see myself either as a technical lead in a photonics-based R&D facility, or I might move to technical sales in photonics.

(Image: BigPixelPhotos/Shutterstock.com)

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