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University of Central Florida launches new undergrad program in photonics

University of Central Florida

University of Central Florida

A new undergraduate program approved this week at the University of Central Florida (UCF) will help the U.S. stay competitive in global technology as well as broaden the path for students seeking rewarding careers in the important field of optics and photonics, say leaders of SPIE, the international society for optics and photonics.

The UCF Board of Trustees announced a new Bachelor of Science degree program in photonics science and engineering, in partnership between the College of Optics and Photonics (CREOL) and the College of Engineering and Computer Science, said CREOL Director Bahaa Saleh. Students will receive their degrees from both colleges. The first classes of the new program will be offered this fall.

The curriculum is designed to prepare students for a wide variety of jobs in optics and photonics and to satisfy the requirements of ABET accreditation based on the criterion established by SPIE and IEEE for degrees in the field recently, Saleh said. ABET is a nonprofit, non-governmental organization that accredits college and university programs in the disciplines of applied science, computing, engineering, and engineering technology.

“I am personally excited to see this announcement because it serves as another indicator that optical and photonics engineering is finally coming of age as a discipline, providing a distinct program choice and career path for students to follow,” said Barry Shoop, professor and head of the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, New York. Shoop leads the SPIE/IEEE team to develop ABET program criteria for optical and photonics engineering.

Shoop said that establishment of the new program also is “further evidence of the growth, influence, and importance of optical and photonics engineering as a discipline. This program joins a growing number of optical engineering programs across the country that are attracting some of the best and brightest students to serve the growing needs of industry, government and academia.”

“The program will help ensure that the U.S. has a chance to participate at all levels in the coming growth in photonics,” said SPIE CEO Eugene Arthurs. “As ABET moves to accredit programs in optics and photonics, UCF, long a leader in technology transfer programs and photonics education, is again showing its innovative drive. This timely new undergraduate program reflects the growing awareness of a vital field that has already changed the world in multiple ways – the Internet, laser surgery, and 3D imaging, to name a few — and that will continue to change the world many times over.”

Students in the new UCF program will study geometrical optics, physical optics, optical materials, and photonics devices and systems, striking a balance between general engineering breadth and basic knowledge and practical skills for solving problems and designing and building working optical systems, Saleh said. Along with core courses, the program will provide hands-on training in laboratories and a capstone senior design project, and participation in a summer internship program with local industry will be encouraged.

As UCF faculty were instrumental in the development of the new ABET program criteria for optical, photonics and similarly named engineering programs, this new program is anticipated to become ABET accredited, which will directly serve the growing need for photonic engineers and further increase the visibility and recognition of optical and photonics engineering as a discipline. 

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