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Meet Brandon Buscaino, Young Professionals Industry Engagement Representative

Brandon Buscaino

Brandon Buscaino serves the IEEE Photonics Society’s Young Professionals Advisory Committee (YPAC) as its Industry Engagement Representative, for 2023-2025. In his role, Brandon represents the voice of members up to 15 years post their first degree that work within industry or would like to transition into the industrial, commercial and/or manufacturing photonics sectors. Below is a short Q&A with Brandon so that you can get to know his background and goals as a volunteer leader!

What is your current professional job?

I’m a research scientist with Ciena working on the next generation of coherent modems for optical communications. Our modems form the backbone of the modern internet and our goal is to push the boundaries of optics and digital electronics to satisfy the growing demands for more data.

What role do you hold within the Young Professionals Advisory Committee (YPAC)? What excites you about the responsibilities and/or strategic oversight of your position?

On the YPAC, I’m the liaison with the Industry Engagement Committee. In this role, I’m able to ensure that the work of the Committee is relevant for young professionals working in or pursuing careers in industrial, commercial or manufacturing photonics sectors. The goal is to facilitate industry engagement activities across the Society efforts, within conferences, awards, standards, etc. The Committee also identifies and acts on opportunities, gaps, and overlaps of special interest to industry, by launching initiatives and programs, such as workshops and a webinar series on Entrepreneurship (which I will serve as a host). I’m especially excited about supporting young professionals in the photonics and optics community as they transition to senior roles in industry. 

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What do you want to accomplish as a YPAC representative?

It is very common for young professionals to lose connection with their technical communities after graduation. Transitioning to industry life can be stressful and, frequently, young professionals do not receive much support in their new roles. I hope that through the YPAC committee we can increase support for young professionals navigating their early-career life with professional development seminars and events. Also, I hope to organize events where young professionals can network and receive mentorship with senior industry professionals.  

Why photonics? What was your “photonics moment” or personal journey story?

Throughout high school and my undergraduate degree, I knew that I loved physics and mathematics, but I hadn’t found exactly the right field for me. During my undergraduate degree, I remember one lecture from an optics class vividly. In the lecture, my professor described how the diffraction pattern from a light source on a single-slit opening could be precisely calculated through a Fourier transform. Up until then, the Fourier transform was a mythical mathematical tool that had little hold on physical reality. This bridge between my mathematical training and the physical world was just the spark that I needed to become enthralled with optics. Over the next several years, I learned about the world of optical communications and the impact that it has on our daily lives. I realized that the field of optical communications would be my professional home and, since then, my professional life has been dedicated to researching and improving optical communications systems!

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What about the IEEE Photonics Society’s mission and work really motivates you?

I think the IEEE Photonics Society is a special organization that is perfectly placed to serve the photonics community. Photonics is a highly multidisciplinary field that requires in-depth knowledge of not only optics, but also analog electronics, digital electronics, algorithms, and much more. What I love about the IEEE Photonics Society is that it is able to connect and support engineers and researchers from these vastly different fields. 

What’s one thing you wish someone had told you when you were an undergraduate student?

One common piece of advice to undergraduate students is that they should take the time during their degree to explore many different fields to find what they love best. While I think this is excellent advice for first and second year students, I found that many undergraduates continued this into their later years. As a result, it’s possible to come out of your undergraduate degree with a great breadth of knowledge without great depth. I would encourage undergraduates towards the middle of their degrees to pursue one or two topics in depth. Make those topics your focus and see how far you can dig into them. This will not only help you decide if the field is right for you, but it will also make you more marketable to future employers and set you up strongly for your future career.

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Where or what do you turn to for continuous learning or skills development in your current career stage?

I’m very fortunate to work at a company with many professional development resources for its employees as well as an exceptionally talented workforce. Every day I make an effort to learn something new from my coworkers, whether it is related to engineering, industry, or something else. However, there are many external resources for skills development as well. For example, the IEEE Photonics Society has many learning resources for its members.

What steps do you think could be taken to better support early career professionals as they transition post-graduation into the industry workforce, research, and/or academic settings?

I think that one of the hardest aspects of transitioning to industry for young professionals is networking and marketing their skills. During your degree, you learn many valuable technical and academic skills that set you up for success in your career, but young professionals often miss out on valuable networking skills that could improve their industry prospects. I think that mentorship and networking training would greatly improve the transition to industry for many young professionals.

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Tell us something fun about yourself!

I have a few passions outside of optical communications that I love sharing with friends and family. As far as sports go, I follow the NBA and Formula 1 closely (supporting the Golden State Warriors and Lewis Hamilton respectively), and I also love playing pickup soccer. You also can ask me about playing the Terraforming Mars board game with my family – I fear to even count how many hours we’ve played!