Optoelectronics Engineer

Kevin Fernandes was initially going to study engineering, until he realised that he was more interested in why rather than how something worked.

Career: Optoelectronics Engineer, Coherent Solutions, Auckland.
Programme: Bachelor of Technology (Honours) majoring in Optoelectronics, Master of Science majoring in Physics.

“It has become apparent to me over my years of study that knowing why things work naturally gives you the ability to figure out how, but not the other way around,” he says.“In the end, due to my curiosity, I picked Physics rather than Engineering.”

Kevin’s Bachelor of Technology (Honours)* was an interesting mix of physics, electrical engineering and other disciplines like programming, maths and chemistry.

He says the varied subject matter and workload, as well as the interfaculty nature of the degree, appealed to him and allowed him to appreciate and connect these different fields together.

“I pursued a masters after my honours degree, because nonlinear optics and its applications fascinated me," he continues.  

“I was keen to make the most of the opportunity to take on a year-long project and apply all my undergraduate knowledge to explore the field of optics in more detail.”

Kevin believes the theoretical knowledge he gained from studying Physics has enabled him to reason through any problem he might face and come to a conclusion - “even when I don’t know the exact answers”.

And on the practical side of his degrees, he has developed skills in managing and running experiments as well as analysing and processing data.

“At the end of my third year, I was awarded a Summer Research Scholarship working in one of the research labs. This was a very rewarding experience, as it was my first real taste of research work, and it definitely inspired and pushed me to pursue this kind of work.

“I also benefited from the opportunity to attend the Dodd Walls Centre lectures and conferences, where I learnt a lot about other optics applications and research fields. It fuelled my interest and furthered my understanding about other parts of physics too.”

Now working at Coherent Solutions as an optoelectronics engineer, Kevin’s job entails validating and testing the products his company designs to ensure they perform as expected.

“My day-to-day activities often involve coding and analysing data, or running the tests and experiments I have drafted to verify a certain product,” he explains.

“One of the things I like most about my job is how my daily work connects so much with concepts I studied and experiments I actually did at university. Another interesting part is seeing the more commercial side of optical physics applications, where theory is developed into a tangible product.”

Kevin believes Physics is a beautiful and awe-inspiring subject and says the knowledge and many skills students acquire are useful in almost any job:

  • The ability to link and connect different concepts together to better understand them and the underlying effects.
  • The ability to explain concepts simply to someone else and communicate with clarity
  • Critical thinking skills
  • Programming and simulation skills

“Regardless of what part of Physics you specialise in, the subject will lead to developing a deeper thinking mind-set within yourself.

“Overall, it will allow you to think critically about any problem, so that even if you don't know the answer, you can reason and work your way there from the fundamentals and first principles.”

He thoroughly recommends studying Physics at the University of Auckland.

“It is truly a lovely place to work and study. The people are always willing to help you out, the lecturers are extremely knowledgeable and always have an open door. Studying in a department like this will ensure you not only develop your theoretical knowledge, but also build lasting and good friendships with the lecturers, tutors and all other staff.”

*The programme is now a BSc(Hons) Photonics