I am a Physicist and Laser Safety Officer at QinetiQ North America’s Technology Solutions Group in San Diego, CA
What is your educational background?
I received a BS in Physics from the University of Massachusetts in Lowell and a MS in Optics from the University of Arizona in Tucson.
How long have you worked with lasers?
I began my career in the early 80’s as a system engineer for TRW in Redondo Beach, CA developing chemical and free-electron lasers. Ronald Reagan was in office and laser technology was bourgeoning as a result of the Star Wars initiative. While there, I also spent several years conducting fundamental research in non-linear optics using Stimulated Brillion Scattering for wave front correction of lasers.
I moved to San Diego to work for Trex Enterprises (formally known as Western Research). This was an exciting time as we were involved in many cutting edge technologies including; atmospheric testing of kilo joule excimer lasers, laser guide-star adaptive optic systems, free-space optical communications, laser epilation and skin rejuvenation to name just a few. It was during these bold atmospheric tests and dermatological applications that I came to fully appreciate the requirement for a rigorous laser safety policy. After all, one cannot “blindly” fire a 1 billion watt laser into the atmosphere without consulting the FAA, and the Laser Clearing House first. Similarly, opening the first laser hair removal spas in the U.S. demanded a sound laser safety policy and thorough training of all employees.
For the last seven years I have worked for QinetiQ North America developing NIR laser illuminators for airborne reconnaissance and blue-green laser systems for underwater communications. So, in all, I have been working in the laser field for almost thirty years.
Becoming an LSO and CLSO
How did you become the LSO?
I became a CLSO six years ago to support field-testing of QinetiQ’s high power laser illuminators. In this capacity, I selected a test site and wrote the field test plan. I contacted the FAA and received a letter of non-objection for testing. Lastly, I coordinated each test with the U.S. Border Patrol and Homeland Security to prevent any conflicts with local exercises concurrent with laser testing. It was very satisfying to obtain these approvals and successfully conduct testing of our laser devices.
Do you like being the LSO?
Yes, I relish my role as LSO. Laser safety is paramount to me and I strive to make the workplace a safer place for my coworkers. I believe the biggest challenge faced by most LSOs today is obtaining management support for safety. Laser safety is not free; it takes funding for education, diagnostics and effective engineering controls. I am very fortunate to work for an organization that acknowledges these facts thus I am not handicapped within my role as LSO. (Now if I could just get better compliance from the PIs to write and update their SOPs!!!)
How has becoming certified helped/benefited you in your career?
It has provided me with a deeper understanding of laser bioeffects, laser safety calculations and administrative and engineering control measures. Together, this makes me a better physicist and makes me less susceptible to either being inured or causing injury to others.