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Training the High-Tech Workers of the Future

MIT grant enables BSU to offer photonics certification program

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Ed Deveney in the lab

Photonics can revolutionize the world’s technology, making everything from medical devices to cell phones better. There’s one problem: To advance the emerging field, you need trained workers.

That’s where Bridgewater State University comes in.

BSU is one of several institutions, including Stonehill College, working with a $1.8 million grant MIT secured from the U.S. Office of Naval Research. The grant allows AIM Photonics Academy at MIT to develop a program to train people to work in advanced manufacturing. The initiative brings together industry, academia and government.

Students can complete a 15-month, 30-credit certification program, which will include apprenticeships at companies. BSU will also offer a new photonics minor as well as a new concentration for physics majors.

Photons are particles of light capable of replacing electrons. Using photons allows for higher-density chips in devices and improves the transmission of information, providing more bandwidth and less energy loss.

BSU plans to train people to be photonics technicians. They are involved in all levels of the manufacturing, testing and characterization of photonic and optical devices, which includes working with lasers and fiber optics.

“They’re well-paid, long-term positions and full-time jobs,” said Dr. Ed Deveney, a BSU physics professor and local principal investigator for the grant.

Technicians need hands-on learning, and that’s something at which BSU excels. The university has 20 years of experience placing students in jobs in the optics industry. 

As part of the grant, Bridgewater will develop three new courses covering optics, fiber optics and electronics. The grant also funds equipment and personnel.

Organizers anticipate welcoming the first group of students in 2020. And, that can’t come soon enough.

Technicians are in demand locally as companies pop up around Massachusetts looking to play a role in photonics-related developments, Deveney said.

“It’s exciting to be part of this revolution and exciting Massachusetts can be a leader in this industry,” he said. “We need a workforce and they will be this workforce.” (Story and photo by Brian Benson, University News & Video)

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