Post Doctoral Researcher, Research Assistant, UCC Tutor, PhD Researcher
I’m an Optical Engineer, which means I do lots of design and testing work to develop new optical components and devices. The kind of things I design would be new types of lasers and also interesting ways of using lasers in the Telecommunications industry to hopefully get faster internet!
I currently work as an Optical Engineer in the Irish Photonic Integration Centre (IPIC) at the Tyndall National Institute in Cork.
Lasers aren’t just found in James Bond films but surprisingly are also a huge part of how the internet works; in my job I develop new ways of using lasers to make the internet faster!
My work as an optical engineer involves the design and testing of lasers. Lasers are a really important part of how the internet works and are used to send information all around the world using optical fibre. With more and more people using the internet everyday, the current systems we have for sending information between computers is being put under pressure. That’s why sometimes when you are trying to load a web page or watch a YouTube video it can take longer than usual to load.
Optical engineers develop new ways of using lasers to send more information. They might do this by making really fast lasers or by combining lots of different lasers together. In my job, I figure how we can squash more and more lasers together on a single chip which makes them more energy efficient and harder to break.
My Typical Day
My work day starts off with some group meetings to talk about how my research projects are going; after that I do some programming, simulations and laser design work on my computer before spending the afternoon in the lab testing new laser prototypes.
What I'd do with the money
I would use the prize money to further outreach activities in Tyndall by buying Photonics Explorer kits for use in schools across Munster.
2015 is the International Year of Light and I think using Photonics Explorer kits (http://www.eyest.eu/Programs/Photonics-Explorer) would be excellent way of encouraging young students to get involved in optical engineering this year. The kits allow students to experience optics engineering hands on, with a series of interactive and well designed experiments.
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
Inventive, enthusiastic, curious
What's the best thing you've done as an engineer?
During my PhD I worked on a project that was trying to make very compact and powerful lasers (so small you could fit hundreds on your finger tip!). I did a lot of the design work on the project and was really proud to see the lasers I designed on my computer coming to life…and working!
What or who inspired you to become an engineer?
I was always interested in the world around me and how it works, so becoming an engineer seemed like a natural choice.
What did you want to be after you left school?
I was really into Science when I was in school and always wanted to be a researcher or engineer.
Were you ever in trouble at school?
Not really…unless you count coming back from lunch late!
If you weren't an engineer, what would you be?
I think I’d have become an Architect.
Who is your favourite singer or band?
What's your favourite food?
What is the most fun thing you've done?
I recently did my first marathon which was actually more fun than I thought it would be!
If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!
Become a professional soccer player; make a break through in science/engineering that changes the world; have my own Iron Man Suit.
Tell us a joke.
How do you make a tissue dance? You blow a little boogie into it!
The lasers I work with might be a bit different to what you imagine lasers to be! Instead of being really big and powerful, the lasers I design are tiny but can be controlled very precisely. To give you an idea of the size, they are about as long as the letter “I” and the same width as a strand of your hair! The picture above shows a chip with 10 lasers on it that I am currently working on.