Finding good technical people

Re your recent Editor's Desk column (Laser Focus World, June 2000, "Where have all the [technical] people gone?"): I see the shortage of scientists and engineers as a good thing that the market will correct in due time.

Re your recent Editor's Desk column (Laser Focus World, June 2000, "Where have all the [technical] people gone?"): I see the shortage of scientists and engineers as a good thing that the market will correct in due time. The increase in salaries for optoelectronics professionals is welcome and long overdue as far as I am concerned, even though employers naturally do not want to pay the increased labor costs.

I have experienced first-hand a graduate student with six months lab experience as an undergraduate leaving my lab to get a job at a fiberoptics firm in Sept. 1999. He is now making ~$85K/yr. with only a bachelor's degree in physics. I see the higher salaries as the best inducement for students to enter difficult technical fields, such as optoelectronics, and thus solve the problem of the "shortage." Students are willing to work hard if they know that there will be significant financial rewards. Government incentives and programs are generally insufficient to convince students to enter difficult fields of study.

Keith H. Wanser
Professor of Physics
California State University Fullerton
Fullerton, CA 92834

I read The Editor's Desk in the June 2000 issue of Laser Focus World with interest because I am an atomic, molecular, and optical physicist with a PhD who happens to be black. My area of research is nanotechnology, quantum optics, and biotech. I glanced at the article you reference in the same issue (Washington Report, p. 58) about the [federal government] trying to get under-represented groups into technology careers, and I think that is a good thing. However, the problem comes when we (minorities) graduate. As an educated black man I still have to face the old boys network when trying to get a job.

I have fought this all my life in industry, and I also found that the playing field is not level in academia. Now, I know it was not my technical ability or my grades (GPA 4.0 while working on my PhD and a member of three national honor societies) that make finding work difficult. I know that my experience is not unique. Perhaps the experience of minorities who have graduated with technical degrees has scared off other minorities from taking a similar career path. There are other issues, too, such as having minority mentors who happen to work in high-tech careers, good academic advisors, receiving proper mathematical training, supportive environment from their white colleagues, etc.

It angers me every time I hear we can't find qualified minorities to fill positions. So I hope companies will take the race blinders off the next time they look for qualified personnel. As for me, I have hung out my own shingle and opened a high-tech research, development, and consulting firm (Keweenaw Nanoscience Center). At least I know that I will get a fair shake from the boss.
Frank Underdown Jr.
Keweenaw Nanoscience Center
747 7th St., Laurium, MI 49913
funderdown@portup.com

It's the wrong chip!

I couldn't help but notice a significant error in the May issue of Laser Focus World in an article on microdisplays ("Virtual reality products introduce psychophysics," p. 247). Figure 1 is listed as a liquid crystal on silicon (LCOS) microdisplay chip produced by Integral Vision. In actuality, the photo accompanying this caption is an advanced analog image-processing chip created here at UNIAX Corporation (I took the photo myself). Although there is a striking resemblance between the two chips, the UNIAX chip is unrelated to the article content.
Michael A. Costolo
UNIAX Corporation
6780 Cortona Drive
Santa Barbara, CA 93117

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