Two Springfield Technical Community College (STCC) students are working as interns this summer at MIT Lincoln Laboratory, a U.S. Department of Defense research and development center in Lexington.
MIT Lincoln Laboratory selected Douglas Bednarczyk and Shane Richardson, students from the Optics and Photonics Technology program at STCC. They are interning at the Lexington facility through August.
Richardson earned his associate degree from STCC in May, but will return this fall to take additional classes. Bednarcyzk finished his first year in the two-year Optics and Photonics Technology program and hopes to earn his associate degree in spring 2020.
Students in the Optics and Photonics Technology program learn about the practical applications of light, optics, and electronics. High-tech applications include lasers, fiber optics, holography, laser materials processing, optical systems, and more.
“Students in the Optics and Photonics Technology program at STCC train on state-of-the-art equipment used in many commercial laboratories,” said Nicholas Massa, department chair for Optics and Photonics Technology. “There aren’t any other associate-degree programs like ours in the region. That’s why companies approach us. They discover our students know how to use the laser equipment and know the theory. They’re ready to go to work.”
Massa said there are not enough trained candidates to meet the demand for jobs in the optics and photonics industry.
“I get calls every day from companies asking about candidates for internships and full-time positions. Nearly all of my students who graduate from the program get hired, and they often get multiple job offers,” he said. “After you get a degree in Optics and Photonics Technology, you can land a job that pays between $40,000 and $60,000 a year to start, and you go up from there.”
Bednarczyk is a third-generation STCC student. His grandfather studied electrical engineering technology, and his father graduated from a biomedical technology program. He looked into the optics and photonics technology after reading an article about STCC’s program.
“I enjoy the program,” he said. “It’s really engaging and hands-on. I’m not the type of kid that was meant to sit behind a computer all day. To use the laser-etching and marking systems we have, I think that’s a blast.”
Meanwhile, Richardson came to the Optics and Photonics Technology program with a bachelor’s degree in theater from a university in California. At STCC, Richardson had the opportunity to study with a mentor, Eric Lim, who holds a doctorate in electrical engineering from Stanford University.
“As a hiring manager, I’ve been impressed with the quality of students who came out of this program,” said Lim, who worked at a laser-technology company. “It was exciting to find a student who was hands-on and interested in laser physics, something I had trained for in my graduate days. So I was very happy to mentor Shane.”
For his class project at STCC, Richardson experimented with converting invisible infrared light into visible green light.
“In order to change light to interact with anything, we have to change the wavelength, and that is what this whole experiment was about,” he said. “I didn’t realize how much I was going to enjoy the program or how beneficial it was going to be. It was a nice fit. I like the people here, and I like the atmosphere. Not many people know about optics and photonics technology.”