Kerry Olivier
Undergrad: Central Washington University, Physics & Mathematics
Track: Optics
Internship: Moxtek
Currently at Timbercon



As I finished up my undergraduate career, I hoped to immediately enter industry. I applied to several positions , but didn’t hear back from any of the companies. As it became more apparent that I was not going to quickly find employment with just a bachelors degree, I explored other options. The UO internship program seemed to be the best fit for me since it allowed for such a quick and fluid transition into industry.

Although I had had extensive laser experience from my undergraduate laboratory I had not done much aligning of optics or even simply mounting mirrors or lenses. This is where the UO program helped round out my experience: I had chances every day to spend hours playing with optics on breadboards. The daily labs not only served as demonstrations of concepts that we were learning, but also served as extremely valuable hands-on experience. The professors made a point of letting the students perform labs with minimal help or supervision. I originally found this slightly annoying, but after having other classes where professors helicopter over students in labs, I appreciated that these labs were left to the students and the students alone.

While the amount of material covered in such a short amount of time was at times overwhelming, the program is designed to force students to support each other. Again, the professors took a passive role, making a point to not leave students out to dry, but to force us out of our comfort zones and try new things on our own.

At the end of the summer science boot camp, I was offered a position at Moxtek in Utah. Taking this position really cemented the idea to me of how different academia is from industry. The UO internship program prides itself in helping bridge that gap, but even so I’m amazed by the amount of new information I picked up just within the first few months on the job. At Moxtek I was given my own projects very quickly, and was pleasantly surprised by how people I worked with actually cared about my opinion. I had the pleasure of being involved with a project since its infancy: helping all the way from design to production to customer interface.

I’m so grateful for the opportunities that I’ve received from both the UO program as well as Moxtek. When I’m given some new project to work on that I’m unsure about, I’m glad that the professors made me figure out problems on my own rather than holding my hand. That system forced me to get used to solving issues independently and prepared me for the world -  where there aren’t always people with more experience to run to for advice.