There are very few academic institutes that specialize in optics. The Center for Optical Research and Education in Utsunomiya University is one such institute.
There are universities that have an engineering department. Many universities have a mathematics department. Other colleges specialize in music. I’m from the Physics department myself.
I live in Japan, and it is a country well known for technology, and is one of the leaders in Optics. Even so, academics worry that there could be a depletion in the next generation of young talent in the space.
Not coincidentally, Utsunomiya city is one of the centers of optical innovation over the years in Japan, and a lot of optics companies (like Canon) can be found there. It is with the push and support of the industry and Japan that the Center for Optical Research and Education at Utsunomiya University came to be.
They do optical design, tooling, manufacturing, measurements. As mentioned earlier, they have a research institute that is independent of academic curricula.
From my point of view, having visited their facility, having talked with key figures in the institute, and a lot of talks with people, I can conclude a few things.
One, their mission is to educate young engineers and researchers specializing in the core subjects of optics, through systematic methods. Not only the theory of optics but also manufacturing of optical components and systems.
Secondly, I feel their mission is to give back to the optics industry by bringing in high-level optical industry experts and further develop them in the field of optics. These experts will further develop the optics field to make the research center the pinnacle for optics-related research and education in Japan.
As an educational institute, the center has MSc and Ph.D. degrees, and also puts emphasis on manufacturing and real-world situations in their labs. For example, I have a Ph.D. in the Sciences, so in Japanese vernacular, my title can be written as “Ph.D. (Science)”. My engineering friend has a degree that is “Ph.D. (Engineering)”, so we can see the discipline of the degree as well. The Utsunomiya University has the first “Ph.D. (Optics)” in Japan. I would have liked to have that title 🙂
2. Inside the Center for Optical Research and Education
There are three research divisions in the center,
- Division for Advanced Research, which covers a wide range of related subjects to build the foundation for next-generation industrial technologies with optics research.
- Division for Applied Research, which covers more practical use of optics as well as fundamental areas including optical equipment and telecommunication.
- Division for Basic Research, which covers the basic and fundamental areas essential for learning optics-related techniques as well as fundamental software oriented areas including data and image processing.
There are a host of educational programs and courses for the University, such as
- Geometrical optics theory
- Wave optics theory
- Optical engineering
- Optical design
- Optical substrate technology
- Optical elements
- Optical telecommunication engineering
- Optical electromagnetic energy
- Colour dynamics
- Colour image dynamics
- Optical charged particle engineering
- Visualization computer science
They also have student exchange programs with familiar optical research centers all over the world.
4. Tochigi prefecture
Utsunomiya city is in the Tochigi prefecture, which supports optical innovation entirely. Tochigi has the 4th highest number of optical and lens-related companies in any prefecture of Japan, and the second most employees of optics-related companies (I assume that number one is Tokyo, so this is no small feat for a relatively rural location).
There are well-known companies like Canon, Fujifilm, and Nikon that have branches in the prefecture.
Also, there is an Innovation Center for Fusion of Optical Technology as well, that is a consortium of optical-related companies. The emphasis is on measurements, tooling, and materials for optical engineering.
5. Research Projects
There are some very promising research in the field of optics,
- Femto-second laser tooling, which is laser-tooling to the level of sub-micron sizes.
- Optical interconnect devices using high performance photonic polymers, for use with Silicon photonics and next generation optical telecommunication technology.
6. Worldwide optics centers
Of course, worldwide, the importance of optical science technology is regarded as important as well. There are many optics-photonics institutes that have undergraduate and graduate programs, as well as research institutes specializing in optics.
(1) Institute of Optics, Rochester University
The oldest institution for optical research in the united states. Notable optical lens designers include Rudolf Kingslake, Leonard Mandel, Emil Wolf, and more recently, Julie Bentley. From classical optics to Quantum optics, there is a complete educational program for optics here. Obviously, there are many optical engineers that have contributed greatly to the optics industry that are from here. Kodak and Xerox both started in the Rochester area, so the impact of the Institute cannot be overstated.
(2) College of Optical Sciences, University of Arizona
UofA is the largest optics related research and educational institute in the world today. In the College of Optical Sciences alone, there are over 400 students and come from all over the world. In addition, UofA has a Distance learning program where you join courses via the web and hand in your assignments electronically, and the degree you get is the equivalent of a graduate degree as if you attended on-site. Their programs include Physical optics, Bio imaging, Optical fiber technology, Photonics, Quantum optics and many, many more. Another interesting characteristic is that there are multiple venture corporations in the vicinity of the University, and have close ties with the UofA (it turns out that for a lot of cases, graduates of UofA start these venture corporations Zemax being one of them as well).
(3) College of Optics and Photonics, University of Central Florida
Although relatively new compared to the previous two institutions, but they have about 250 students and research optical fibers, optical sensors, high power lasers, spectrometry, semiconductor lasers, optical waveguides. As we can see from the research topics, they skew more towards photonics rather than optics, but it is impressive nonetheless.
Other notable institutions are the Georgia Institute of Technology, University of Colorado at Boulder, University of California at San Diego.
I have to say that Germany started the modern optical industry as we know of it today. Although there are no huge institutions, there are many optical research and education institutions in the country.
- Friedrich-Schiller University Jena (I especially respect Professor Herbert Gross’ philosophy through his lens design material)
- Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg
- Karlsruhe School of Opitcs and Photonics, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology
- Institute of Technical Optics, Stuttgart University
- University of Applied Sciences Berlin
(2) France, Spain
- Institut d’Optique in France has about 100 years of history in optics. Their programs include atomic spectroscopy, nanophotonics, optical measurement systems, lasers, biophotonics, quantum optics, nonlinear optics just to name a few.
- Institute of Photonics Sciences, Barcelona in Spain is a good institute as well.
In Europe, there is a masters degree program called EUROPHOTONICS Erasmus Mundas Joint Master Degree (EMJM) in conjunction with Axi Marseille University in France, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, University of Barcelona, and Tampere University of Technology in Finland started in 2010.
(3) Other European institutes
- Warsaw University of Technology, Poland
- Nicolaus Copernicus University in Poland
- Delft University in Holland
- Technical University of Denmark
- University of Eastern Finland
The more notable institutions are:
- College of Optical Science and Engineering, Zhejiang University is one of the larger universities in China, with a dedicated bachelors and masters program. In fact, their facility is registered under important facilities in China. Their research includes light sensing and light detection instrumentation, optoelectronic technology, and nanophotonics. The Zhejiang district is known for optics and there are many companies that deal with optics such as lenses, microscopes, optical fibers for telecommunication, optical fibers for spectroscopy. Interestingly, Alibaba is also in the vicinity.
- School of Optics and Photonics, Beijing Institute of Technology is an institute that rivals that of Zhejiang University, with a very good bachelors program. They specialize in optical systems design, fiber optics, bio imaging as far as research.
Other notable institutions include Tsinghua University, Nankai University, Fudan University, Sichuan University, Tianjin University
I believe that amoung the global institutes specializing in optics, Utsunomiya University is at the top of the class. Their first phase was to construct a curriculum centered around optics, and starting research facilities specializing in optics. With their work, many more students and prospective students have joined, and the optics community and simply their industrial community is thriving.
I hope to see more innovations going forward, and hope topics like the following are addressed.
- The networking with other universities/technological institutes within Japan
- A distance learning program using the internet (like UofA)
- Promotion and education of optics to a more younger generation (like junior high and high school students aged 12-18 years old)
The optics industry is thriving across the globe. I hope there are more and more institutes that support the promotion of optics.
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