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DCE Magazine

Alumni Spotlight: A Lens Into the Future

Summer 2020

Physics major Anthony Oceguera wanted a career out of the ordinary – and he found it with a certificate in optical engineering.

Anthony Oceguera is 23, studying for his bachelor’s in physics at Cal Poly Pomona and already well on his way to a successful career in a fast-growing field. Soon after graduation, he will begin working on advanced laser systems for one of the world’s largest research laboratories, a dream job that wouldn’t have happened without his Optical Engineering certificate from UCI.

Fascinated with physics, Anthony started thinking about viable careers early on, something apart from the usual paths for physics majors – staying in academia, becoming a professor, or getting into aerospace or electrical engineering. None of it seemed particularly appealing, so he chose a path less travelled.

“When you’re a physics major, it’s sort of expected that you’ll try to get into electrical engineering or aerospace, which are very crowded fields,” he said. “But I looked at my options and chose optical engineering, not just because it’s something that interested me, but it’s also a wide-open field that’s growing fast with a lot of new opportunities.”

Anthony was determined to specialize in optics, but realized his options were limited. Cal Poly had only one optical engineering course, and he found a laser class at Irvine Valley College. Then he heard about UCI’s certificate program and he knew it was exactly what he needed. Anthony took the plunge and it made all the difference.

“It’s one of the best investments I’ve ever made,” he said. “My goal was to have a good job lined up by the time I was in my senior year, and the UCI certificate took my skills and experience to the next level. It’s a great feeling.”

Today, Anthony sits on the board of the Optical Society of Southern California (OSSC), perhaps the youngest board member ever at the 69-year-old organization, heading up its outreach effort. One of his personal missions is spreading the word about UCI’s certificate program. “I’ve already recruited four new students, and I’m working on number five,” he says, laughing.

Busy with school and an internship, Anthony managed to spend an afternoon filling us in on his blossoming career and how his experience with the DCE helped make it happen.

“…the instructors are all extremely knowledgeable, helpful and experienced. I have to say it’s one of the best investments I’ve ever made. I would certainly recommend it to anyone interested in optical engineering.” Anthony Oceguera

Let’s start with some background. When did you decide to pursue optical engineering as a career?

Well, I became interested during a career day at Cal Poly. It seemed to offer a lot of career opportunities and there wasn’t a lot of competition in the field. There are so many applications being developed right now in a lot of different fields – automotive, defense, medical, consumer electronics – any technology that’s incorporating lens and optical systems. It’s an exciting time with many possibilities.

Did you connect with the OSSC at the career day?

No, I became aware of it when my Cal Poly professor sent out an email stating that they were looking for student volunteers to assist with an optical engineering conference event called Mirror Tech Days. I was attracted to all the networking and educational opportunities the OSSC offers, so I volunteered and soon started an Optical Society club at Cal Poly. The OSSC members tend to be older, and they wanted to recruit younger people, like me. So, I eventually got appointed to the Board of Directors and now I’m Outreach Chair, to help spread the word to young physics majors.

How did you find out about the DCE certificate program?

Donn Silberman, one of the program’s advisory committee members, mentioned it to me about two years ago at the first Mirror Tech event I attended. I knew I’d need to find a highly focused and intense optical engineering program to take it to the next level, and Donn strongly recommended it. There aren’t many out there, but when I checked out the DCE certificate program I realized it was exactly what I needed.

What impact has the program made on your career prospects?

Once I added the certificate to my resume, it sparked a lot of interest. It really did take my career prospects to the next level. After I completed the program, I started getting a lot of calls from so many companies. It led to an internship working on military and civil space projects, and right now I’m about to transfer to a full-time position at a major laboratory. It’s not something I’m allowed to talk about much because of national security concerns, but I’m very excited about it.

Tell me about your experience with the DCE.

The learning curve was steep, definitely, but the instructors are all extremely knowledgeable, helpful and experienced. I have to say it’s one of the best investments I’ve ever made. I would certainly recommend it to anyone interested in optical engineering. One of my goals was to have a great job in place before I graduated Cal Poly, and the certificate made it happen.

Most people might not be familiar with optical engineering. What are some of the career possibilities?

There are a lot of new applications for optical systems. Quantum computing is a big one, so is fiber optics. Virtual Reality systems like the Oculus, and Google and Apple’s smartphone cameras. Some automakers are developing infrared imaging systems that rely on optics, as well. Even older applications like telescopes. It’s a fast-growing field and Southern California is a major hub for companies developing optical systems, an excellent place to live for anyone starting out. So is Northern California for that matter.

Has your love of physics and optics influenced other areas of your life, like hobbies or outside interests?

Yes, I’ve become an amateur astronomer. Studying optics and lenses sparked my interest in telescopes, so when I get a chance I go to Joshua Tree to look at the stars. It’s a great place for it because of the clear, wide-open desert sky.

Learn more at Optical Engineering Certificate Program.