In December 2018, the new Optics Center (OZ) opened in Wetzlar. Professor Markus Degünther was chosen for the endowment professorship “Optics and optical technologies” at the Technical University Mittelhessen (THM) / University of Applied Sciences, Central Hessen. He is currently working on further expansion of the Optics Center.
W3 Connect: What is the purpose of Optics Center?
MD: The Optics Center bundles competencies: various working groups and students collaborate on application-related issues in the field of optics and optical technologies within the framework of research and development projects. Application-oriented means that the aim is to create real products, whether a device, an innovative process or a new method. The spectrum of work at the Optics Center ranges from publicly funded projects to research that has been commissioned and contracted by companies. The complex contains offices, a lecture hall and a conference room. Additionally, an optics laboratory is being set up. We are also in the process of recruiting staff. As an institution of the THM, one essential role of the Optics Center is training. Students benefit from our educational offerings and gain competence in optics.
W3 Connect: What exactly will be included in the training?
MD: Course specifics are still in planning. Following the accreditation process, we envision a specific degree course: “Master of Optical System Engineering.” Its core content will be the optical system concept. This conveys how optical systems work and how they can be built – from the generation of light photons, to their absorption and possibly downstream information processing.
W3 Connect: Does this mean that training is hands-on?
MD: Yes. Students learn how to approach assignments and tasks that are typical for companies involved in optical technology. This helps young people get started in their professions. They learn their jobs more quickly, are more productive, and the firm’s internal contacts are bound to their mentoring activities for a shorter period of time. Our range of courses is not limited just to students: The Optics Center also offers the possibility of further vocational training.
W3 Connect: Could you describe this continuing education program?
MD: Further training can be pursued as modules, or blocks, of courses or in summer school. The course contents have been established. However, lecturers can coordinate these to a certain extent with the course participants.
W3 Connect: What does the organizational structure of the Optics Center look like?
MD: The Optics Center rests on three pillars: teaching, research projects and innovation. The first pillar is concerned with education. This includes the final theses in research and innovation projects. The second pillar “research projects” covers goal-oriented project work. This is where projects are initiated, acquired and processed. “Innovation,” as the third pillar, refers to projects that, for example, are inspired by megatrends – such as aging societies, developments in mobility or in modern communication. The aim is to launch innovative products at a later date.
W3 Connect: Do members of the Optics Center staff also work on research projects?
MD: As far as possible, students work on the projects. But the focus is on the success of the project. This is why employees can also assume functions that do not contribute to students’ education. In addition to projects that are dedicated solely to research for a company, the Optic Center also works on publicly funded projects. These also generally take place in cooperation with firms.
W3 Connect: So the Optics Center lets students network with industry, and companies with each other?
MD: Both are important. Networking is interesting for students as well as companies. As students write their theses, they already can learn something about companies, and the companies about them. This is useful when it comes to filling vacant positions or looking for qualified junior staff.
In addition, in the central Hessen region, many firms are world class in their industry. Opportunities for cooperation between various companies is far from being exhausted, in my opinion.
W3 Connect: What impression do people have of the Optics Center?
MD: Public perception is largely positive. However, many people seem to find the idea of an Optics Center a bit abstract. This is why it is important that we continue to make our role and offerings better known. Additionally, we must now start to finance and process projects that have been applied for. By providing specific and tangible results, we can show what the Optics Center can do.