About Me

Proof of Concept Optical Engineering

Hello!  I’m Donna Waters, the optical design consultant you’ll be working with. 

A little about myself:

I began my career in 1990, working at the Exploratorium Museum in San Francisco and preparing labs for myself and the other physics students at De Anza College. 

I subsequently worked for several years as an R&D scientist in thermal protection, photovoltaics, photoelectrochemistry, and ultrafast laser characterization of photoexcited electrons, carrying out the research at NASA-Ames, Sandia National Labs, UCSC Chemistry Dept., ZAE-Bayern in Germany, and the National Renewable Energy Lab.  I did all this to support my studies at UC Santa Cruz, which led to my degrees in physics.

By 2000, I was working as a staff physicist at Wave Optics, a small fiber optics company in the Bay Area.  Wanting to learn more about optics beyond the fundamental research I’d done as a scientist and what I was learning on the job at Wave Optics, I started taking optics classes.  When the Dotcom Bust hit, I moved to Florida to pursue a master’s degree at UCF’s School of Optics (CREOL).  During that time, I gained some experience raytracing in ASAP for a project at the Florida Solar Energy Center.  That enabled me to get hired upon graduation as a stray light analyst at Ball Aerospace in Colorado.  

Over the years, the scope of my work at Ball expanded beyond stray light into other areas of optics, like optical design and image processing. Though my title was always “optical engineer”, I even worked requirements flowdown on a multibillion-dollar lasercom program for a couple of years.  From that, I gained a good understanding of how the various elements of a project (optical, thermal, structural, electronics, etc.) are interwoven and how trades can be made between them to meet top-level system requirements, while minimizing risk and effort.

In early 2013, leveraging those two decades of experience, I founded Proof of Concept Optical Engineering.  This past decade as a consultant has been the best of my career so far.  I love working directly with customers, especially the entrepreneurs, and wouldn’t have it any other way.  Sometimes I think my career path has been a little crazy, but no other path could have possibly prepared me as well for solving the variety of problems that I see day to day as an optical design consultant. 

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