Jay Vizgaitis

jay vizgaitisBS optics '98

(MS electro-optical engineering '03, Johns Hopkins University)

Occupation: Optical engineer / lens designer, U.S. Army Night Vision Lab
Residence: Alexandria, VA
Family: Wife, daughter, and another child on the way
Activities: Keeping my 2-year-old out of trouble

Why did you choose to attend the University of Rochester?

I was recruited to play golf at the UR. I wasn't very interested at first, but the coach called me every week and convinced me to visit the school. I was surprised at how much I liked it, and the more I found out about it, the more I realized it was the place for me. Good thing too, because I met my wife there!

When and how did you choose your major?

I knew about the optics program when deciding to go to UR, but was undecided when I got there. I kept hearing how hard the program was so I proceeded cautiously. After taking Professor Duncan Moore's Geometrical Optics class, and listening to his stories about the Hubble telescope, I was hooked and declared optics as my major.

What activities were you involved in as a student and what did you gain from them?

Both majoring in optics and playing on the golf team were very time consuming endeavors. Trying to maintain friendships on top of that meant some very late nights.  Learning how to manage these competing parts of my life was just as critical to my current successes as what I learned in the class room. I think the importance of this part of college is often overlooked.

What do you do now and why did you choose this career?

I am the senior optical engineer at the US Army Night Vision Lab. I help design night vision equipment for the Army, such as night vision goggles for soldiers and infrared systems for tanks, helicopters, and weapons sights. I chose this career because I really wanted to be a lens designer and this provided a great opportunity to do just that. I get to work with state of the art technology and help push the forefront of optics.

How are you still connected with the University?

I occasionally get to work on projects that involve the Institute of Optics at the UR. The best part is that sometimes my former professors ask me for advice on various technologies. How cool is that!

What advice do you have for current students?

Your time at college is only the beginning of your education. When choosing a job, try to find one that has a good mentor(s) available to you.