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Optical Coatings Engineer

Penn State University
University Park, PA
Closing date
Nov 26, 2021

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Science, Physical Sciences and Engineering
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The Electro-Optics Center (EOC), located in Freeport PA, a Division of the Applied Research Laboratory (ARL) at Penn State University is seeking an Optical Coatings Engineer with experience designing, fabricating, and testing diffraction gratings to support High Energy Laser (HEL) and other electro-optical (EO) system development programs supporting military and intelligence community customers.

Responsibilities include:
  • Design and optimize optical components for state-of-the-art HEL, imaging and EO systems
  • Design, develop, and test multi-wavelength optical coatings and gratings for shared aperture HEL and imaging applications
  • Integrate, align and test optical components including mirrors, lenses, and diffraction gratings
  • Analyze and troubleshoot optical designs
  • Model sensor performance in real world optical conditions
  • Pilot system development from the desk/bench-top through field-testable prototype to transitioned, field-deployable product
  • Support operationalization of techniques through data analysis, lab experimentation and field-testing activities
  • Brief senior leadership and sponsors
  • Work to develop project/staffing plans, participate in strategic business planning, new business development and internal research and development (IR&D) efforts
  • Work closely with other engineers and scientists at Penn State and at DoD customer laboratories
  • Assist in new concept developments; analyzing alternatives independently and applying engineering techniques and procedures to assignments
  • Manage projects of small or moderate size and scope, making substantial contributions

Higher-level responsibilities include:
  • Provide technical leadership within the division for optical coatings programs and initiatives
  • May chair sessions at technical conferences/meetings; participate in external seminars, workshops, professional societies and committees
  • Independently manage multiple and/or large optical coatings projects

This position will be filled as a Level 3 or 4 Research and Development Engineer depending upon the successful candidate's education and experience. Typically requires a Master's degree in an Engineering or Science discipline plus five years of related experience, or an equivalent combination of education and experience for a level 3. Additional experience and/or education and competencies are required for the higher-level positions.

Required skills and experience includes:
  • Five years or more experience developing and specifying optical components including substrates and coatings for HEL and EO systems
  • Experience with optical coating design software such as TFCalc or equivalent
  • Significant experience with optical substrates, dielectric coatings and deposition processes, especially for HEL applications
  • Familiarity with optical coating metrology processes and instrumentation including spectrometers, photothermal common-path interferometers, and cavity-ring-down systems
  • Familiar with lithography and etching techniques as it relates to diffraction grating fabrication
  • Experience defining optical component specifications and subsystem level requirements for vendors
  • Specification and integration of components for laser system development
  • Familiarity with HEL diagnostic equipment, to include power meters, beam profiling, thermal imaging, wavefront sensors, etc.

Successful candidates will possess a strong interest in hands-on optical system design and development for laser applications, with specific experience in optical coatings and/or gratings used in HEL weapon systems.

Preferred skills and experience includes:
  • A Master's degree or PhD in Electrical Engineering, Physics, Optics, or a related field is highly desired.
  • Significant hands-on laboratory experience with optical components including lasers, lenses, mirrors, coatings, optical detectors, cameras, and opto-mechanical accessories including lens and mirror mounts
  • Familiarity with opto-mechanics, atmospheric propagation models and
  • Familiar with optical instrumentation including detectors, interferometers, spectrometers, cameras, etc.
  • Familiarity and experience with optical design software packages
  • Experience with image analysis
  • Understanding of opto-mechanics, specifically related to military optical systems
  • Knowledge of current optics fabrication techniques and limitations
  • Ability to analyze and troubleshoot optical designs (image quality, stray light, radiometry, etc.)
  • Ability to model sensor performance in real world optical conditions (atmospheric transmissivity, turbulence, etc.)
  • High Energy Laser (HEL) optical system design and specification
  • Experience developing and fielding optical systems for military applications
  • Experience specifying and integrating components for laser system development for military customers
  • Strong written and verbal communication skills
  • An active Secret security clearance with eligibility for TS/SCI is highly desirable

Candidates for consideration must submit a cover letter of interest and a resume.

Some travel will be required.

Candidate selected will be subject to a government security investigation. You must be a U.S. citizen to apply. Employment with the Applied Research Laboratory will require successful completion of a pre-employment drug screen.

The Applied Research Laboratory (ARL) at Penn State University is committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion; we believe this is central to our success as a Department of Defense designated University Affiliated Research Center (UARC). We are at our best when we draw on the talents of all parts of society, and our greatest accomplishments are achieved when diverse perspectives are part of our workforce.


Pursuant to the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act and the Pennsylvania Act of 1988, Penn State publishes a combined Annual Security and Annual Fire Safety Report (ASR). The ASR includes crime statistics and institutional policies concerning campus security, such as those concerning alcohol and drug use, crime prevention, the reporting of crimes, sexual assault, and other matters. The ASR is available for review here.

Employment with the University will require successful completion of background check(s) in accordance with University policies.

EEO is the Law

Penn State is an equal opportunity, affirmative action employer, and is committed to providing employment opportunities to all qualified applications without regards to race, color, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, gender identify, national origin, disability or protected veteran status. If you are unable to use our online application process due to an impairment or disability, please contact 814-865-1473.

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Freeport, PA
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