OPEN Optics and Photonics Education News
Newsletter of the Optics and Photonics College Network
April 2020
LASER-TEC and NSF Assist OPCN Students During COVID-19 Pandemic
Online Platforms to Supplement Student-Instructor Communication
Most colleges nationwide have shifted their operations online, which presents challenges to hands-on programs in photonics, lasers, and optics. Luckily, there are solutions that can be used to supplement the learning experience. Student team projects, instructor-student counseling, office hours, and most all face-to-face communication can continue by using online platforms.

Many learning management systems that are used by colleges support video conferencing and file sharing tools (Blackboard Collaborate, for example); however, if you need to supplement these tools, consider using some of these products that are available at no cost (some limitations apply):

Adobe offers a free 90- day trial, no credit card required, for its family of products of Adobe Connect for Learning, Webinars, and Meetings. This powerful and widely used solution will provide you and your students with a virtual classroom, live streaming management tools, file sharing, and many other tools necessary to expand your communication with students.

This company offers basic video and collaborative tools at no charge for up to 1,000 call participants and up to 5 web participants. During the COVID-19 epidemic, they are offering the Starter Plan free for two months (regularly $9.99/month).

Skype is well-known and popular software that allows you to make free conference calls anywhere in the world. Faculty and students can easily join Skype, download their software, and invite others to join. Skype supports video conferencing for up to 10 participants.
LASER-TEC has been awarded 1.65 million dollars by the National Science Foundation Advanced Technological Education Program to continue its operation as a resource center as of September 2020 for the next three years. Among multiple goals, LASER-TEC will focus on developing new photonics modules, updating existing and technically outdated materials, and ensure that available materials have all the necessary pedagogical features that will simplify their integration.
Photonics Technologies Help Fight COVID-19
Photonics-enabled technologies are at the forefront of battling the novel coronavirus called SARS-CoV-2 and it's resultant disease, COVID-2019. From structural molecular biology to the scaled-up laser material processing, photonics help fuel the necessary research, provide prompt and accurate testing, diagnose and monitor the disease, deliver solutions for public safety, and provide alternatives to personal protective and medical equipment.

Here are some of the examples of how photonics and optics technologies are used in this global fight:

  • Using X-ray crystallography, researchers have identified the dataset for the virus’s main protease, enabling exploration of potential drugs
  • CRISPR technology targets RNA viruses such as coronaviruses
  • Laser tweezers help developing vaccines
  • Thermal imaging provides solutions for public temperature monitoring systems
  • Laser markers were used to battle against fake 3M n95 masks
  • Laser sheet metal processing equipment (mainly Trumpf’s products) were used in building the hospital in Wuhan in less than 10 days.
  • The FDA has already issued guidance about 3D-printed medical device equipment. This enabled laser-based materials processing companies to pitch in and address shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE) and medical equipment. Currently, there are a lot of 3D-printed consumables available on the market, such as face shields, the DX3010 valve, ventilators and their components.

LASER-TEC Resources
Whether you are looking for support with your college program's outreach, curriculum design, academic-business partnerships, or student placement, LASER-TEC has resources for you. Visit the Resources tab on our website to browse textbooks, kits, laboratory manuals, and informational and outreach materials. The current collection is comprised of both LASER-TEC and OP-TEC materials. Don't forget to check this page often, as we will constantly upload additional resources.  
Featured College: Gallatin College / Montana State University - Bozeman, MT
Montana offers one of the highest per capita densities of optics and photonics institutions in the U.S ( . To meet the ever-growing technician workforce demands of this local cluster (and the nation), Gallatin College offers an Associate of Applied Science Degree (AAS) in Photonics and Laser Technology to develop highly-trained photonics/electro-optic technicians. Located in beautiful Bozeman, MT Gallatin College - MSU is Southwest Montana’s two-year college. Gallatin College complements the four-year programs at Montana State University and ensures access to workforce development that promotes a vibrant local economy. Since the Photonics and Laser Technology program’s recent inception in the Fall of 2016 two cohorts made up of 15 total technicians have graduated and all are working and excelling in the local photonics industry. Companies that have hired graduates of this program include: Lumibird/Quantel Laser, Aurora Innovations, Quantum Composers, FLIR Systems, Resonon and many more. 
Associate of Applied Science in Photonics and Laser Technology

Students completing the AAS in Photonics and Laser Technology from Gallatin College will learn the scientific principles of electronics, photonics and advanced manufacturing. This includes a focus on AC/DC, solid-state and digital electronics as well as the fundamentals of light and lasers, laser systems, and associated applications and advanced manufacturing techniques. 

This training will prepare students to become photonics/electro-optic technicians who work on products or devices used in manufacturing, communications, defense, homeland security, medical, information technology, energy, environmental monitoring, lighting, displays, and entertainment.

A large portion of the electronics and photonics curriculum is hands-on where students spend a majority of their time working in a laboratory environment to apply their theoretical knowledge and master the use of relevant test and measurement equipment to construct and troubleshoot advanced electro-optic systems.
Skills of AAS degree graduates
  • Demonstrate the ability to excel as technicians in the electronics, optics, laser, and photonics support fields.
  • Students will have an overall knowledge in laser systems, electronics, optics and electro-optics/photonics.
  • Student will have a demonstrated knowledge in the fundamentals of light and lasers that includes the nature of light, geometric optics, wave optics, optical components, opto-mechanical components and positioning equipment, physics of lasers and laser operation, fibers and fiber optics, and overall laser safety.
  • Students will have a demonstrated knowledge in electronics that includes AC/DC electronics, electronic components and circuitry knowledge base.
  • Function in a professional manner in their field, and use, maintain and clean equipment and tools required in the field of optics, lasers, and photonics.
  • Analyze, configure, test, measure, troubleshoot and assist with problems that arise in a professional optics, lasers, and photonics environment.
  • Communicate technical ideas, procedures, and results with professionals in written, oral or graphic format.
  • Graduates will be prepared for a variety of careers in design and manufacturing, materials processing, communications, medical applications, semiconductor fabrication, optical systems, electronics, and military applications.
Contact Information
Name: Trenton Berg
Title: Program Director of Photonics and Laser Technology
Telephone: (406)994-5147
Address: 101 Hamilton Hall, P.O. Box 170515, Bozeman, MT 59717-0515
How can I recruit from this college?
If you interested in recruiting students from Gallatin College, please reach out to our program director or come to our college to present your company and employment opportunities to our students. We will make available, free of charge, a private room to interview interested students. Please contact the person below to make arrangements for a recruiting visit. Current students are always seeking internship opportunities and graduates are available every May.
OPCN Member Colleges

The Optics and Photonics College Network (OPCN) is an association of postsecondary photonics technician educators operated by LASER-TEC. To learn more about the OPCN and to view the list of member institutions, please visit
Please feel free to forward this newsletter to anyone who may find it's contents valuable.
Join the Conversation

We hope you enjoyed this edition of the OPEN newsletter. We would really like to hear from you. If there is some subject that you would like us to discuss or look into, please let us know at
OPEN is published by the LASER-TEC Center for Laser and Fiber Optics Education
This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. DUE-1700352. Any opinions, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.