What is photonics?
Photonics scientists try to understand the behaviour of light or the basic particles of light, which are called photons. They try new ways of guiding, detecting, making and storing light. Why? Because light can do almost the same job as electricity, but it's much cheaper and faster.
People working in photonics test all types of materials like glass, plastics, water, copper with light to discover ways to transfer light and data better. This might lead to faster communication through high quality optical fibres for use in telephones and computers. Photonics could even produce devices like high quality microscopes that are more powerful and make objects look clearer.
Scientists, engineers and technicians with training in photonics and related technologies are in high demand here and overseas.
In Australia alone, an additional 18,000 photonics jobs will be created by 2010. By 2006, at least 700 graduates will be required every year by the Australian photonics industry. Graduate salaries start at around $40000 a year, increasing to $90 000 a year for graduates with 5 years experience (New Scientist, July 2000).
Photonics manufacturing companies also require people with business, technology management, marketing and legal skills who have an understanding of photonics technology.
Where to from here?
There are now several courses in photonics available. There is also the option to study a science course and specialise in photonics.