Graduate Profile - James Roscoe

What was your physics education?

B.Sc. (Acadia) and M.Eng (McMaster)

How did you get your first job? Was it a physics job? Did you use your physics background?

After completing a masters degree in engineering physics at McMaster I applied for a product development job at JDS Uniphase using connections with colleagues from grad school. The position required knowledge of basic optics, fibre optics, thin film filters, and optical characterization techniques.

The JDS job was a fairly good match to my background in optoelectronics. My masters thesis involved the development of mode locked semiconductor lasers. Through this, I was involved in the design, fabrication, and characterization of multi-quantum well InGaAsP on GaAs near-IR diode lasers, coating laser facets with multilayer thin film filters, mounting semiconductor lasers in external cavities, and driving them with RF signals.

While my initial job at JDS primarily involved bulk optics, thin film filter design, and integration of fibre optic components with electronics; corporate restructuring later gave me opportunities to develop wafer based waveguide products and other advanced optoelectronic technologies.

In spite of the close match of the job to my graduate work, the physics skill I used most at JDS was tolerance analysis. In industry, an untoleranced design is a recipe for disaster! In addition to standard mechanical tolerance analysis, we performed numerous Monte Carlo simulations of the theoretical optical designs and were very careful to ensure the simulations accurately reflected the measured statistical data from production runs.

Multidisciplinary knowledge is also very useful in industry. One of the more exciting things I worked on involved the use of DSP mathematics + design techniques in optical filter design. It is very important, as a physicist, to see how the mathematics of one well understood physical problem mimic another that might otherwise be very hard to solve in an efficient manner.

Which parts of your physics education have been the most useful?

The honours thesis component of the physics degree at Acadia (along with several summers spent working in the basement of Huggins, building electronics for Dr. Latta) was where I learned most of the practical experimental + development skills I have used in industry. The honours thesis program at Acadia is very strong, and is an excellent step into graduate school.

Of the specific physics courses at Acadia that I took, quantum, E&M, optics, thermodynamics, and electronics & interfacing courses were all essential in my graduate work and in industry. Obviously the solid state physics, materials science, and optoelectronics I learned at McMaster was also important.