Coming full circle

He completed his PhD at Eindhoven University of Technology, continued with a postdoc position at TU Delft, and is now back in Eindhoven, working with his former TU/e colleagues again – this time on the other side. Stefanos Andreou tells about the career choices that led him to become an R&D engineer at SMART Photonics.

Stefanos Andreou has been fascinated by the world of communications for a long time now, he explains. ‘During my bachelor's education in Greece, I was primarily interested in telecommunications and mostly the application aspect of them. Later on, that evolved into a fascination for the physics behind.’ After having attended a lecture about optical communications and photonics he got mesmerized by that subject and decided to pursue a Master's in photonics.

‘For my Master, I wanted to go to Northern Europe. Since TU/e offered ample opportunities for internships, I decided to move to Eindhoven.’ After graduating in broadband communication technologies, the Cyprus-born engineer joined the Photonic Integration research group as a Ph.D. student.

First contact with SMART 

As part of his Ph.D. research, he developed an extremely sensitive sensor that is able to detect wafer deformations of roughly one nanometer per meter. ‘Though the primary partner was ASML, that project also brought me in close contact with SMART Photonics, which delivered the lasers the sensor is based on,’ Andreou recalls. Since he wanted to explore the possibilities of an academic career a little further, he accepted a postdoc position at TU Delft, where he worked on chip-based optomechanical sensors. Then industry called.

Since January 2021 Andreou has been employed at SMART Photonics. ‘As an R&D engineer, I am involved in many different projects concerning the development of process designs and a new platform for the O-band. Current integrated photonic technology is based on a wavelength of 1550 nm. For photonics applications in data centers, we need to utilize different bands such as the 1310 nm band instead. In practice, that means that we are developing similar lasers, modulators, and waveguides, but optimized for a different wavelength.’

So far, Andreou has thoroughly enjoyed his career move from academia to industry. ‘My work here is much more diverse than when I was an academic. I not only go to the lab to work on experiments, but I am also talking to customers to develop new applications, and I am leading projects to advance the photonic integration field as a whole. This broad range of activities is very nice. And since I am still collaborating with some of my former colleagues at TU/e, my landing in the industry has been a very soft one.’