I remember the first day of the internship: as I walked into Professor John Bower’s lab for the laser safety training, I wondered when I’d get to run all of the advanced machinery and lasers I had heard about.
It began with reading journals, books, and scientific papers for about a week or two. Coming in around 10 AM, reading till 4 PM, and then heading home each day. As I began reading the papers, I realized how complex the level of the material was compared to what we learned in classroom lectures and acknowledged the fact that I needed to be able to understand the equipment I would be spending the summer working with. MMI’s… Couplers… PDK’s… These words were all foreign to me. Though the reading seemed long and tedious, it helped build an understanding of how to read and interpret such a different style of writing.
Once I finally got into the lab, I learned about some of the various different applications of light and optics in a lab setting. From developing and implementing an algorithm in order to control automated test setup to determining measurements in epitaxially grown quantum dot lasers, I gained knowledge and hands on experience that I would never have been able to receive from only a classroom lecture environment.
Now nearing the end of my AIM Photonics summer internship experience, I can say with a 100% guarantee that I was able to establish successful results in a professional laboratory setting by interacting and working proficiently with my colleagues and mentor. The weekly activities organized through the program really emphasized the key aspects of what goes into research outside of the traditional laboratory setting. Gaining so much advice about graduate school from older students and making connections with various professors and mentors were just the beginning of the kind of valuable information I obtained from this program. I would definitely recommend this program to all physics and engineering undergraduate students regardless of their career and academic paths. One thing I would definitely not give up on is being deeply involved in the future of photonics by developing new techniques and set-ups using optical fibers.
It was truly an amazing and unique experience to feel that I was contributing to such an important field, and I value the chance I was given to be a part of something bigger. This opportunity has opened a doorway for me to the research life, and all I can say is give it your all because whether or not you find a career in research, the experience will broaden your mind and uncover a whole new spectrum of engineering that you may never even have thought existed.