The Big List of Tips

Here it is, the Big (currently not actually all that big) list of tips, tricks, and rules of thumb we have accumulated and provide to you reader to make your life easier! If you have any contributions you would like to add please contact us to let us know at!


This two part presentation was presented in January 2019 to the first and second year PhD students as a way of exploring realistic challenges of graduate school that, in my opinion, are not frequently talked about:

Optical Engineering Graduate School Thoughts_Suggestions, Tips, and Lessons Learned-Lecture 1_January 2019

Optical Engineering Graduate School Thoughts: Suggestions, Tips, and Lessons Learned_Lecture 2 January 2019

TipPrimary FocusSecondary FocusMethod
Laser AlignmentAlignmentOptomechanicsTools: Laser, aperture, optical bench/rail
1) Power on laser
2) Orient aperture to be at the same height as the laser beam, or vice-a-versa.
3) Fix aperture height securely.
4) Translate aperture down field axially along optical axis (along one direction, your aperture can only move in z during the alignment, and z defines your optical axis).
5) Adjust laser tip/tilt until the beam passes through the aperture.
6)Translate aperture back close to laser output and translate in x,y until beam passes.
7) Repeat steps 5 and 6 until the beam passes through the aperture when close or far.
Aberration ControlAberration TheoryLens Design1) Make the system as symmetric as possible about the stop.
2) Share the bending work over as many lens surfaces as possible, i.e. don't have one surface bending all of the light.
3) Optimize the system with standard lenses only. Then, once you have optimized the design, begin adding aspherics if required.
4) Check your pupil size! If you see that you magically obtained almost diffraction limited imaging, make sure you didnt accidentally shift the pupil size such that it is only allowing paraxial rays.
Off-Axis ParabolaAlignmentOptomechanicsRequired: laser, OAP, aperture
Non-Collimated Optical Filter (and its spectral impact)OpticsFilteringIdeally, you will collimate your optical beam before passing it through a filter. If you do not, then the filtering band will shift, depending on the angle of incidence. My only advice here is to try to collimate your beam at least for the filtering stage. If you cannot, very carefully consider what actual filter band you need based on your light cone angle.
Assigning tasks for EngineersManagementEngineeringThis breaks down as a workflow problem I've witnessed in engineers. Here is my recommendation if you have to manage and engineer/scientist.
1) Assign a proof of concept task with a short time frame.
2) Once proof of concept is complete, assign a list of optimization approaches.
3) Select the key optimization approaches and assign them to work on those with hard deadlines.
The problem that can arise here is that we engineers/scientists can easily get lost in a problem and not make much progress on a deliverable.