January 11, 2018
This month, meet Optical Research and Prototyping Engineer Erin Elliott, a key member of the OpticStudio team, who says she’s a “kid in the ultimate playground” working at Zemax.
Briefly describe what you do all day. It depends on the day! I look for wonderful new capabilities to put into OpticStudio, and create prototypes of those new tools. I also teach training courses and write articles so that people can use OpticStudio more effectively. I help customers solve knotty modeling problems, too.
What’s the best thing about your job? My job can be described as, “Take these tools and make some cool things.” I feel like a kid in the ultimate playground. There are so many technically challenging and creative things to do each day.
What’s the best thing about Zemax? It’s great working at a small company that still feels like a startup. There’s a lot of energy and things happen quickly. Everyone on the team is smart and committed.
What does your workspace look like? I work in my home office. There are three bookshelves, a big file cabinet, and a high desk with two monitors on it. I keep it quiet and peaceful so that I can concentrate on work.
What’s been one of your proudest moments working at Zemax? I taught a training course recently, and the engineers there wanted to know how to use OpticStudio to model an interferometric alignment for a telescope system. I was able to come up with an example on the fly and show them how to carry out the modeling. I was pleased that I could do it and pleased that I was helping the team move forward.
What do you like to do when you’re not at the office? I’m a reader and I also play around with writing fiction. I love to cook and bake bread and am always learning something new in the kitchen. I grow flowers and herbs for cooking and I’m learning how to collect seeds so that I can propagate them from one season to the next.
Fill in the blank: I’d most like to have dinner with… How about a table full of naturalists! Diane Fossey, E. O. Wilson, Bernd Heinrich, and Helen Macdonald. With Oliver Sacks thrown in for fun, since he’s a naturalist of the human mind. You’d have to record the conversation so that you could study it later. Wouldn’t it be fun to have a dinner with feminist voices of the past and present, and hear what they have to say about our particular moment in time? You would get a pretty lively discussion with Simone De Veauvoir, Betty Friedan, Kaitlin Moran, Kate Bolick, and Cheryl Strayed all at the same table!
Favorite cause? I love the Heifer Project because I grew up on a farm & ranch. They supply livestock to families so that they can begin on the path to self-sufficiency. I also love programs that allow you to fund particular projects at schools – New York and a few other states run such programs. And I’m always interested in microloan projects, which have been shown to be quite successful in some cases.
In addition to being a problem-solver for customers and engineers, Erin is the co-author of a new optimization theory called Contrast Optimization in the latest version of OpticStudio. Contrast Optimization targets the best MTF response at a desired spatial frequency. Watch the on-demand webinar to learn more.
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