Optics Valley: The State of Arizona’s Optics Industry E36
Arizona is home to a global hub of world-class companies and institutions with decades of innovation and leadership in optics, photonics and astronomy. From medical imaging to remote sensing, semiconductors to astronomy and mobile phones to quantum information science, the applications of optics and photonics technologies are exploding.
The March 2023 episode of the Arizona Technology Council’s AZTechCast podcast featured experts including Dr. Jennifer Barton, director of the BIO5 Institute at The University of Arizona; Gregory Quarles, CEO and president of Applied Energetics, Inc.; and Katie Schwertz, design engineering manager at Edmund Optics. These leaders joined Bianca Buliga, director of marketing and communications at the Arizona Technology Council, and Karen Nowicki, president and owner of Phoenix Business RadioX, in discussing why Arizona attracts optics companies, how these companies are supported and what Arizona and the U.S. can do to maintain industry leadership.
In this hour-long episode, the panel of three experts started by defining the study of optics and photonics as the science of light and sharing how the industry has evolved and grown in the past decade. They emphasized that while not many people have heard of optics and photonics, the industry’s applications are present in everyday life, from the cars we drive to our cell phones to medical equipment being used at doctor’s offices. The panel then continued on to explain how Arizona has become a global hub for innovation in optics, photonics and astronomy, with the Optics Valley industry cluster leading the way in southern Arizona. Optics Valley, a committee of the Council’s that has now grown to over 100 members, hosts several events every year like Arizona Photonics Days and the International Day of Light to educate the community on the many important applications of optics and photonics.
Applied Energetics, Inc. is a pioneer in photonic and fiber-based laser technology. Headquartered in the University of Arizona Tech Park in Tucson, Arizona, Applied Energetics is a dedicated team of experienced innovators who understand the power and limits of physics and put their knowledge to work, providing unparalleled capabilities to solve the most complex challenges of our customers’ critical missions.
The company has a proud, 20-year history of technological innovation, owning the patents and intellectual property for their unique USP laser technology, and delivering on multiple national security programs.
Dr. Gregory Quarles was hired in May 2019 as the CEO and Board member for Tucson-based Applied Energetics, Inc, a recognized leading company developing ultrashort-pulse lasers, frequency agile optical sources, and laser guided energy technologies.
He was subsequently named President and CEO in 2020. Greg had previously served on the AE Scientific Advisory Board. Prior to joining Applied Energetics, Dr. Quarles served as the Chief Scientific Officer for Optica (formerly the Optical Society of America) since November of 2015.
He is an experienced Chief Executive Officer, Board Member and renowned physicist with 30 years of experience driving cutting-edge laser, optics, nanopowder, directed energy devices, and photonics technology development and operations within advanced industrial companies.
Greg is a globally recognized leader for his strategic partnerships with the Department of Defense, the U.S. Congress, and his innovative work developing new laser devices for medical, national security, and industrial applications. He has also spent the past fifteen years interacting with global leaders in the optics, photonics, and academic communities discussing policy opportunities.
Greg has been awarded five patents related to his research in solid-state lasers, has twelve pending, and has published over 130 peer-reviewed and conference publications. Dr. Quarles has been a member of the U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of Industry and Security, Sensors and Instrumentation Technical Advisory Committee (SITAC) since 2015.
Earlier in his career, Greg was a founder, COO and Managing Partner of EdgeLight Incorporated, a start-up enterprise pioneering wearable light therapy in Tucson, AZ. He has also managed his own consulting firm since 2013, as President and CEO of Opto-Electronics Management Network.
Prior to starting this consulting business, Greg served as the CEO at B.E. Meyers & Co., Inc., and was Director of Corporate Research, Development and Technology for II-VI Incorporated, from 2002 -2010. His previous experience includes serving on eight Corporate and not-for-profit Boards, including the Optica Board of Directors, working at II-VI Incorporated for 18 years, and the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory for 5 years.
Dr. Quarles is a graduate of Oklahoma State University and holds a Ph.D. and MS in Physics, and a dual BS in Math and Physics. He has served as Assistant Editor for both Optical Engineering and the IEEE Journal of Quantum Electronics and is a Fellow of both the Optica and SPIE and a Senior Member of IEEE.
Edmund Optics® (EO) has been a leading global manufacturer and supplier of optics, imaging, and photonics technology that has served a variety of markets including Life Sciences, Biomedical, Industrial Inspection, Semiconductor, R&D, and Defense since 1942. EO designs and manufactures a wide selection of optical components, multi-element lenses, imaging systems, and optomechanical equipment, while supporting original equipment manufacturer (OEM) applications with volume production of stock and custom products.
EO takes pride in helping customers from prototype to volume production, and specializes in creating cost-effective solutions that meet customer’s specifications, timelines, and budgets.
The Edmund Optics® Tucson Advanced Design and Assembly Facility is a 22,284 sq. ft (2,070 m2) state-of-the-art facility near the Tucson airport offering sophisticated design and assembly services. It contains ISO Class 6 cleanrooms for assembly, ISO Class 7 cleanrooms for incoming inspection, ISO Class 5 Precision Cleaning Line, and numerous testing capabilities such as modulation transfer function (MTF), straylight, laser beam profiling, thermal cycle, shock, and vibration.
Our skilled team of optical assembly technicians has extensive experience with high-performance systems in cleanroom facilities. U.S.-based customers now have access to more sophisticated commercial and ITAR compliant offerings at a regional location on the West Coast, in addition to other Edmund Optics facilities, domestically and internationally.
Katie Schwertz is the Design Engineering Manager at Edmund Optics in Tucson, AZ where she is responsible for managing corporate-wide design and analysis needs for existing products and new product development.
She received her B.S. in Optics from the University of Rochester and M.S. in Optical Sciences from the University of Arizona. She has over a decade of applied industry experience in optical and optomechanical design primarily for imaging lens systems.
She is a co-author of two books, the SPIE Field Guide to Optomechanical Design and Analysis (2012) and Photonics Rules of Thumb, 3rd ed. (2020). She is a senior member of SPIE and Optica and recently served on the SPIE Board of Directors (2020 – 2022). She is an active member of the Optics Valley industry cluster within the Arizona Technology.
The BIO5 Institute at the University of Arizona connects and mobilizes hundreds of world-class plant, animal, and human bioscientists, engineers, physicians, and computational researchers to develop creative solutions for complex challenges such as disease, hunger, water and food safety, and other health issues facing Arizona.
BIO5 is commemorating 20 years of research, innovation, and impact. It is proud of the significant work behind this milestone, and all that it means for our university, state, and world.
Jennifer Barton received her Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering from the University of Texas at Austin, and previously worked for McDonnell Douglas on the International Space Station program.
She is currently the Thomas R. Brown Distinguished Professor of Biomedical Engineering, and has additional appointments in Electrical and Computer Engineering, Medical Imaging, Optical Sciences, and Biosystems Engineering at the University of Arizona.
She has served as department head of Biomedical Engineering, Interim Vice President for Research, and is currently Director of the BIO5 Institute, a collaborative research institute dedicated to solving complex biology-based problems affecting humanity.
Barton develops miniature endoscopes that combine multiple optical imaging techniques, and evaluates the suitability of these endoscopes for detecting early cancer development. She has a particular interest in the early detection of ovarian cancer, the most deadly gynecological malignancy.
About Your Hosts
Steve Zylstra serves as president and CEO of the Arizona Technology Council, a role he assumed in 2007. He is responsible for strategy, operations, finance and policy development. Zylstra is a vocal spokesman for the value technology can provide in raising social and economic standards in Arizona.
Zylstra serves on numerous councils, committees and boards, was named “Leader of the Year, Technology,” by the Arizona Capitol Times, and “Most Admired Leader” by the Phoenix Business Journal. In addition, he was awarded an honorary doctorate of science in technology from the University of Advancing Technology in Tempe, Ariz.
Zylstra earned a bachelor’s degree in automotive engineering technology from Western Michigan University.
Karen Nowicki is a successful author, speaker and the creator of Deep Impact Leadership™ and SoulMarks Coaching™. She is a two-time recipient of the prestigious national Choice Award® for her book and personal development retreat. Karen was crowned the first-ever “Mompreneur of the Year” Award in 2010 for the southwestern states. She was recognized for her leadership, business acumen, and work-life balance.
Karen has been an expert guest on regional TV and radio shows, including Fox Phoenix Morning Show, Sonoran Living, Good Morning Arizona, The Chat Room, and Mid-Day Arizona. She has been a regular contributor to many print and online magazines – publishing articles and blogs for business and education.
In addition to working with private coaching clients, Karen is also the Owner & President of Phoenix Business RadioX. The Business RadioX Network amplifies the voice of business – serving the Fortune 500,000, not just the Fortune 500. Phoenix Business RadioX helps local businesses and professional associations get the word out about the important work they’re doing to serve their market, profession, and community.
Of all the experiences Karen has had the privilege of participating in over her vast career, she shares that Phoenix Business RadioX is a pinnacle adventure!
Born in Phoenix, Arizona, Bianca Buliga is a trilingual first-generation American of Romanian ethnicity. A marketing professional with experience in both the nonprofit and for-profit sectors, Bianca currently works as Director, Marketing & Communications for the Arizona Technology Council.
Previously, Bianca worked as Marketing Communications Lead at Proctorio, a learning integrity platform that offers remote proctoring software ensuring exam integrity for learners around the world.
Bianca also worked as Senior Marketing Manager at SEED SPOT, a social impact incubator that educates, accelerates, and invests in impact-driven entrepreneurs creating market-based solutions to social problems. In January of 2020, Bianca was selected as an awardee of the Mandela Washington Reciprocal Exchange Program and traveled to the African island of Mauritius to run entrepreneurship programming for 15 impact-driven ecopreneurs on behalf of the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.
Bianca has also completed comprehensive consulting projects for IBM, ESAN Business School, and the Peruvian government, and interned at the Arizona House of Representatives and U.S. Embassy in Bucharest, Romania.
Bianca earned her Bachelor’s degree in International Affairs from Northern Arizona University in 2014 and her Master’s degree in Global Affairs and Management from the Thunderbird School of Global Management in 2017. She is an avid reader, yogi, and world traveler always planning her next trip.
Connect with Bianca on LinkedIn.
About Our Sponsor
The Arizona Technology Council, Arizona’s only statewide organization serving the technology sector, fosters a climate of innovation to enhance technology in Arizona.
A trusted resource in strengthening Arizona’s technology industry, the Council proactively eliminates impediments that companies face, accelerates the entrepreneurial mindset in the state’s expanding innovation ecosystem, and works to create a destination for companies to be, thrive and stay.