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Laying the Groundwork

Students play key role in development of photonics and optical engineering at BSU
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Upon arriving at Bridgewater State 20 years ago, Dr. Ed Deveney found a college excelling at producing science teachers. But, the physics professor wanted to make his department also known for undergraduate research.

“There was nothing in physics. There was no real research,” said Deveney. “The students jumped right in and made it all happen.”

Petr Liska, ’01, and Scott Dallmeyer kicked off the effort by building a research laser. Over the ensuing years, with assistance from BSU’s undergraduate research program and grants, numerous students tackled projects in optics. Meanwhile, the university built the Dana Moher-Faria Science and Mathematics Center and its state-of-the-art labs.

Learn more about Photonics and Optical Engineering at BSU

Now, the Department of Physics is preparing to offer a major in photonics and optical engineering amid other new programs. And, it continues to produce tomorrow’s science teachers, only ones with an even stronger background in physics and research.

“All these students have been just as much a part of this as all of us,” said Deveney, who thanks many others for their contributions including Yale’s Dr. David DeMille. “Everything they have done has created what we are now.”

We asked several to reflect on their Bridgewater experience:

Dr. Dale Smith, ’11

Smith became an undergraduate in his 30s after a career in the U.S. Air Force. A Brockton native, he studied physics and mathematics at Bridgewater.

Dale Smith in a BSU lab.

As a student, he helped build a device used to analyze the structure of the element rubidium. Smith went on to study physics in graduate school at the University of Connecticut, eventually earning a PhD. He hasn’t forgotten his undergraduate days and returned to teach at BSU last academic year in a temporary position. He was attracted to teach here for the same reasons he values his time as a student.

“Bridgewater prepared me to go to grad school,” he said. “It’s a small department. I like that. I like teaching small classes. I got to know the people in the classes.”

Now an optical engineer at Plymouth Grating Laboratory, Smith works with several fellow Bridgewater graduates. And, his company regularly brings on current students as interns.

BSU’s latest foray into photonics will enhance ties with industry in a field where the U.S. lags behind other countries.

“It’s definitely important for Bridgewater,” Smith said, “It will help students get jobs when they graduate.”

Tyler Holloway, ‘14

Holloway always had a knack for physics, but he began his undergraduate career studying industrial design at Wentworth Institute of Technology. He realized that wasn’t for him and transferred to BSU, where he rediscovered his physics passion.

Holloway attended BSU when the new science and math center opened and helped launch the observatory atop the building. He also joined Deveney’s lab and took part in semester and summer research, including building an optical trap that uses lasers to catch microscopic objects like DNA so they can be studied.

“You could always go talk to one of the professors,” he recalled. “They were always very helpful. It didn’t have to be directly related to the course work.”

Now, Holloway and his colleagues at Forward Photonics design lasers for governmental and industrial applications.  Holloway wears many hats at the small business, so he appreciates the broad education he received at Bridgewater.

“I still use the physics every day in my engineering job,” he said. Bridgewater professors “set you up with a lot of tools and definitely encourage curiosity about things outside what we were going over in our normal coursework.”

Alexander Medeiros, ’16

Medeiros came to physics by way of his interest in photography. Understanding physics behind cameras introduced him to optics and he followed that educational path at Bridgewater State.

As a student, Medeiros worked in the observatory and in Deveney’s lab, but his contribution to BSU’s evolving photonics and optical engineering programming was just beginning.    

He landed a job at MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory and impressed supervisor Dr. Paul Juodawlkis so much that he wanted to learn about Bridgewater. Juodawlkis and Deveney met and Juodawlkis became an important advocate for physics at BSU.

Medeiros, who researches and develops integrated photonics technology, credits Bridgewater professors, programs and courses with shaping him.

“Bridgewater was seminal in my training to become a physicist,” he said. “If it weren’t for any one of the experiences I had along the way, I wouldn’t be who I am today.”

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