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Systems/Optical Engineer

Thorlabs, Inc., Sterling, VA, United States
Employer Description

Founded in 1989, Thorlabs seeks to accelerate the forward movement of scientific discovery and advancement! As a vertically integrated manufacturer of photonics components, instruments, and systems, our vast product portfolio includes over 20,000 items, ranging from optics and optomechanical positioning components to imaging systems, many of which are customer inspired.

Photonics is the foremost technology driving innovation in science and engineering. As the number of technological innovations has grown, Thorlabs has extended its core competencies in an effort to play an ever increasing role serving the Photonics Industry at the research end, as well as the industrial, life science, medical, and defense segments.

Headquartered in Newton, NJ, Thorlabs has grown to over 1800 employees with manufacturing and sales offices in the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, France, Sweden, Japan, China, and Brazil. As light-based technologies push into new markets, Thorlabs plans to enter early with the products and services required to ensure the ultimate success of our customers.

Job Description

Purpose of the Position

We are seeking a talented Systems Engineer with a strong background in optical engineering.

The position is responsible for evaluating different imaging modalities, and their suitability to Thorlabs customers, as well as designing systems to implement those techniques. The ideal candidate will have experience designing optical systems and have a good understanding of optical alignment and tolerances, and how they affect image quality. The successful candidate will assist in bringing new products from prototype to production, with an emphasis on robust manufacture-able designs. The job includes occasional participation in detailed technical discussions with customers, sales, and field service members and may require some travel.

Essential Job Functions include the following, but are not limited to:

  • Work independently and collaboratively with other engineers to develop systems, prototypes, and tests Life Science Imaging Systems.
  • Design precision multi-element lens systems, including tolerance analysis, metrology requirements, assembly procedures, and mechanical design support.
  • Routinely perform analyses, such as optical simulation, image simulation, and illumination modeling on lens systems.
  • Follow prototype designs from conception through manufacture.
  • Stay abreast of current industry trends and techniques relating to optical design, imaging, microscopy, and precision alignment.
  • Responsible for all related production documentation, which includes, bills of material, engineering drawings, testing requirements, tooling, and specification of thin-film coatings.
  • Provide web page data, descriptions, measurements, and graphs to support the web page team.
  • Interact with production personnel to define and solve manufacturing/design issues and implement cost reduction ideas regarding new and current company products.
  • Prepare technical data such as qualification test procedures, acceptance test procedures, reports, component maintenance manuals, etc.
  • Interact with vendors and purchasers concerning supplied and proposed components.
  • Acts as the technical expert for the company for both internal and external customers.
  • May be asked to install systems at customer locations and provide product training when needed.


In addition to the essential functions and duties listed above, all positions are also responsible for:

  • Meeting company standards pertaining to quantity and quality of work performed on an ongoing basis, performing all work related tasks in a manner that is in compliance with all Company policies and procedures.
  • Adhering to Company policies, procedures, and directives regarding standards of workplace behavior in completing job duties and assignments.

The Company retains the right to change or assign other duties to this position.


Physical Activities:

The employee must frequently lift or move objects up to 10 pounds and occasionally lift or move objects up to 25 pounds.



  • 5+ years of complex system integration and development and minimum of 2 years in Optical Design



  • BS, MS or PHD in Systems Engineering, Optical Engineering, or equivalent


Specialized Knowledge and Skills:

  • Skilled in the use of Zemax design software, or equivalent
  • Strong optics and photonics working knowledge, including imaging optics and illumination
  • Solid fundamental knowledge of inverted and upright microscopes and associated techniques in both wide-field and Fluorescence microscopy
  • Hands-on experience with assembly and troubleshooting of optical systems
  • Strong ability to take initiative
  • Flexibility/adaptability in a fast-paced & dynamic environment
  • Desirable skills and experience:
    • Whole-slide scanning
    • Image analysis and machine vision
    • Image classification and segmentation techniques
    • Scientific digital cameras and apps
    • Applied MATLAB programming
    • Electronic test equipment (oscilloscopes, voltmeters, etc.)
    • C/C++and/or C#/.NET application or utility development using Visual Studio

Thorlabs values its diverse environment and is proud to be an Equal Employment Opportunity/Affirmative Action Employer.  All qualified individuals will receive consideration for employment without regard to race, color, religion, gender, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, national origin, genetics, disability, age or veteran status. Job descriptions are not intended as and do not create employment contracts.  The organization maintains its status as an at-will employer.  Employees can be terminated for any reason not prohibited by law.

23 April 2021
23 May 2021
Bachelor's Degree
Optical Components, Lasers, Sensors