17 Photonics Engineer Interview Questions and Answers

Learn what skills and qualities interviewers are looking for from a photonics engineer, what questions you can expect, and how you should go about answering them.

Photonics engineers work with the generation, manipulation, and transmission of light. This includes developing and working with lasers, fiber optics, and other related technologies. Photonics engineering is a relatively new field, and as such, there are not a lot of photonics engineers out there.

If you’re hoping to become a photonics engineer, you’ll need to be able to answer some tough questions in your interview. Your potential employer will want to know if you have the technical skills and knowledge necessary to do the job. They will also want to know if you’re a good fit for their team.

To help you prepare, we’ve compiled a list of sample photonics engineer interview questions and answers.

Are you familiar with the properties of optical fibers?

This question can help the interviewer determine your level of expertise in photonics engineering. Use your answer to highlight your knowledge of optical fibers and how they relate to the job you’re applying for.

Example: “I am very familiar with the properties of optical fibers, as I have used them extensively throughout my career. Optical fibers are made from silica glass or plastic that transmit light signals through a process called total internal reflection. The diameter of an optical fiber is measured in micrometers, which determines its bandwidth capacity. There are also different types of optical fibers based on their core size, such as single-mode and multi-mode.”

What are some of the most important factors to consider when designing a laser system?

The interviewer may ask you this question to assess your knowledge of the laser system design process. Your answer should include a list of factors that are important for designing a laser system and how they affect the final product.

Example: “The most important factor when designing a laser system is the wavelength, as it determines what type of material the laser can cut or engrave. Another important factor is the power supply, which must be able to provide enough energy to operate the laser at its required level. The size of the beam is also an important factor because it affects the quality of the work the laser does.”

How would you troubleshoot a malfunctioning laser?

This question can help the interviewer assess your troubleshooting skills and ability to apply them in a timely manner. Use examples from previous experience or describe how you would approach this task if it’s something you’ve never done before.

Example: “I would first determine what caused the malfunctioning laser, which could be anything from a power issue to an alignment problem. Then I’d check whether there are any safety issues with the laser that need to be addressed. If everything checks out, I’d then make sure all of the equipment is functioning properly and calibrate the system again. Finally, I’d test the laser again to ensure it’s working as expected.”

What is the difference between an ASE and an OSA?

The interviewer may ask you a question like this to assess your knowledge of the different types of certifications available in the photonics industry. You can use your answer to highlight any certifications you have and explain what they mean.

Example: “An ASE is an Associate of Science in Engineering, which I earned after completing my undergraduate degree. This certification shows that I am qualified to work as a photonics engineer at a junior level. An OSA is an Optical Society of America, which is a professional organization for engineers who specialize in optics. To become a member, I had to complete 100 hours of continuing education credits every year.”

Provide an example of an application for which an optical fiber is used.

This question can help the interviewer determine your knowledge of photonics and how you apply it to real-world applications. Use examples from your previous work experience or explain a theoretical application for which an optical fiber is used.

Example: “Optical fibers are used in many different applications, including telecommunications, medical imaging, data storage and more. In my last position as a photonics engineer, I worked on a project that involved using optical fibers to transmit data between two points. The company was looking for a way to reduce costs by transmitting data over long distances without having to use expensive cables.”

If a client wanted to use a fiber laser for a particular application, would you recommend it? Why or why not?

This question can help the interviewer understand your decision-making process and how you apply it to various projects. Use examples from past experience to explain why you would or wouldn’t recommend a fiber laser for a particular application.

Example: “Yes, I have used fiber lasers in the past when working with clients who needed high power levels. Fiber lasers are great because they’re compact and easy to use, which makes them ideal for applications that require mobility. They also produce a lot of power per unit area, so they’re useful for cutting through thick materials like metal.”

What would you do if a client wanted to use a fiber laser but the application required a fiber laser with a higher wavelength than the fiber laser could produce?

This question can help the interviewer understand how you would solve a problem and apply your knowledge of photonics to find an alternative solution. Your answer should show that you have experience with fiber lasers, their applications and wavelength ranges.

Example: “If a client wanted to use a fiber laser but it couldn’t produce the required wavelength, I would first explain why this is important for the application. Then, I would look at other types of lasers that could produce the necessary wavelengths. For example, if the fiber laser couldn’t produce a 1.5 micron wavelength, I might recommend using a diode-pumped solid state laser instead.”

How well do you understand the principles of quantum mechanics?

Photonics engineers must have a strong understanding of quantum mechanics, which is the study of subatomic particles and their interactions. This question allows you to show your interviewer that you understand this important concept by explaining how it applies to your work as a photonics engineer.

Example: “Quantum mechanics is an essential part of my job because I use it to calculate the energy levels of electrons in atoms. These calculations help me determine the best materials for optical devices like lasers and LEDs. For example, when designing a new laser, I would need to know what material has the right properties to emit light at the wavelength I want. Quantum mechanics helps me find these materials.”

Do you have experience using optical design software? Which programs are you most familiar with?

Employers may ask this question to learn more about your experience level with photonics engineering software. They want to know if you have the necessary skills to complete projects and tasks on time. In your answer, share which optical design programs you’ve used in the past and how often you use them. If you don’t have any experience using specific software, explain what other types of software you’re familiar with.

Example: “I’m most experienced with OpticStudio from Zemax. I also have some experience using MATLAB for modeling and simulation. These two programs are my go-to when it comes to designing optics systems. However, I am open to learning new software as needed.”

When testing a laser, are there any warning signs that the laser is about to malfunction?

This question can help the interviewer determine your knowledge of laser safety and how you apply it to your work. Use examples from previous projects or experiences to highlight your ability to recognize potential issues before they become major problems.

Example: “There are a few warning signs that indicate when a laser is about to malfunction. One sign is if the beam starts to flicker, which could be caused by an unstable power supply. Another sign is if the beam becomes distorted, which may mean there’s something wrong with the optics. If the beam begins to move in different directions, this could mean there’s a problem with the alignment of the mirrors. These are all things I check for during testing so I can make sure the lasers are operating safely.”

We want to increase the power of our lasers. What would you do to increase the power of our lasers without increasing their size?

This question can allow you to demonstrate your problem-solving skills and ability to work with a team. You may want to consider the specific needs of the company or organization before answering this question, as it can help you understand what they’re looking for in an answer.

Example: “I would first determine if there are any ways we could increase the power without increasing the size. If not, I would look at other methods that could reduce the size while still maintaining the same amount of power. For example, I might use a different wavelength of light that’s more efficient.”

Describe your process for testing a laser.

This question allows you to demonstrate your problem-solving skills and ability to work independently. Your answer should include a step-by-step process for testing a laser, including the tools you use during the test.

Example: “I first determine what type of laser I’m testing by using my knowledge of photonics engineering and the specifications of the device. Then, I set up the equipment needed for the test, which includes a power meter, oscilloscope, signal generator and other devices depending on the specific needs of the project. Next, I calibrate the equipment and perform the test according to the specifications of the client.”

What makes optical fibers so useful?

This question can help the interviewer determine your knowledge of photonics and how you apply it to your work. Use examples from your previous experience to show that you understand the benefits of optical fibers and their applications in various industries.

Example: “Optical fibers are useful because they allow for fast data transfer, which is essential when working with large amounts of information. They’re also flexible and lightweight, making them easy to transport and install. Optical fibers are durable enough to be used outdoors without any additional protection, so they’re ideal for use in telecommunications and networking.”

Which optical design software do you prefer and why?

This question is an opportunity to show your knowledge of the industry and how you apply it. You can answer this question by naming a specific software program and explaining why you prefer it over others.

Example: “I have used Zemax for my optical design projects because it’s easy to use, has many features and allows me to create complex designs with ease. I also like that it’s compatible with other programs in the photonics field, such as MATLAB and Simulink. This compatibility makes it easier to share data between different systems.”

What do you think is the future of fiber optics in the field of photonics?

This question can help the interviewer get an idea of your knowledge and interest in the field. Your answer should show that you are passionate about photonics and excited to be a part of it.

Example: “I think fiber optics will continue to play a major role in the future of photonics because they’re so versatile. They allow us to transmit data over long distances, which is especially important as we move toward more advanced technology. Fiber optics also have many applications outside of the tech industry, such as medical devices and telecommunications. I’m excited to see how this technology continues to grow.”

How often do you perform routine maintenance on lasers?

This question can help the interviewer determine your experience with lasers and how you approach maintenance. When answering, it can be helpful to mention any specific procedures or steps that you use when performing routine maintenance on a laser.

Example: “I perform routine maintenance on lasers at least once every six months. I usually start by checking for any loose connections or damaged wires. If there are no issues with these components, then I check the power supply and replace any parts if necessary. After this, I test the system to make sure everything is working properly before returning it to its place.”

There is a problem with a laser that you built. How do you react?

This question is an opportunity to show your problem-solving skills. You can answer this question by describing a specific situation in which you encountered a problem with a laser and how you solved it.

Example: “When I was working at my previous job, we were building a new type of laser that could be used for medical purposes. We had been testing the laser when we noticed that there was something wrong with one of the mirrors. The mirror wasn’t reflecting light properly, so we couldn’t use the laser as intended. I took apart the entire laser and found that the mirror was slightly bent. I fixed the mirror and put the laser back together. It worked perfectly after that.”


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