PULLMAN, Wash. — Representatives from 11 Washington companies with interests in optics and opto-electronic materials attended a day-long series workshops about advances in the field at Washington State University on Monday. The meeting was sponsored by the Department of Physics, the College of Sciences and the Washington Technology Center.
“It was an exciting opportunity for the companies to learn about new technologies that are emerging from WSU physics and engineering research laboratories,” said Leon Radziemski, dean of sciences. “This sharing could lead to some very positive results on both sides: research collaborations between the companies and WSU researchers leading to new products for the companies and research support for the laboratories involved, and internships for students and employment for WSU graduates in the industry.”
The represented companies produce a variety of products, including solid state lasers, medical optics, remote sensing devices, display panels, optical fibers and fiber applications, switching networks, holographic security systems and optical data storage systems. The Boeing Company was represented as well as companies that are spin-offs from Boeing and Microsoft.
According to William Torruellas, assistant professor of physics and workshop organizer, opto-electronics has the potential of defining many of the technologies of the 21st century. “It lies at the intersection of now mature scientific disciplines: optics, electronics and material sciences. This area of science and technology is just ripe in many respects. It is allowing fundamental scientific discoveries and is also profoundly impacting our economy.”
A recent survey report from the National Research Council describes opto-electronics as an enabling science to more than 5,000 U.S.-based companies with a financial impact in excess of $50 billion annually. “A goal for this meeting is to identify common interests and to achieve an even higher level of competitiveness for both the academic and industrial participants,” Torruellas said.
WSU has identified opto-electronics as one of its research strengths, and a new masterÃs degree specialization in the area has recently been created under the umbrella of the colleges of sciences, engineering and education. The development of the program is supported by the National Science Foundation under a Combined Research and Curriculum Development grant.
During the opening session, the business representatives, whose titles ranged from vice president to senior scientist, described the products and services of their companies and then heard WSU scientists describe their research interests. Following the introductory sessions, the company representatives were given tours of physics research labs and met with individual faculty members to discuss common interests. Radziemski and George Hedge, vice provost for research, both made presentations focused on research trends at WSU and their effects on the state. Janice Gaines Walker, education director for the International Society for Optical Engineering, discussed society activities and programs; and Keith Ritala, marketing manager for the Washington Technology Center, outlined grants and other programs available through the WTC.