OpTeC sponsors a colloquium throughout the academic year. This is a forum where a wide range of optical science and engineering topics are discussed at a level that can be understood by a broad spectrum of optics students, staff, and faculty. The primary purposes are to train students to give effective scientific talks and to promote cross-disciplinary interactions of students, staff, faculty, and local industry employees. Speakers include MSU students, staff, and faculty, and visitors from external universities, research labs, and companies.

Join our colloquium held during academic semesters on Thursday at 4:10 pm.

Norm Asbjornson Hall, Room 153

WebEx Link

March 30, 2023

Thomas Coleman

General Manager

Silixa, LLC

Fiber optic distributed sensing for environmental and infrastructure monitoring


Distributed fiber optic sensing is a powerful monitoring technology that allows optical fibers, most typically used for telecommunications, to be transformed into vast sensing arrays with up to many thousands of independent measurement locations over distances of up to 100 kilometers by leveraging the principles of optical time domain reflectometry (OTDR). Quantification of temperature, strain, and acoustics is possible at all points along an optical fiber, simultaneously using a single fiber optic cable. Some of the most advanced applications of distributed sensing are in the earth sciences, due to the simplicity and inherent reliability of fiber optic sensors when deployed in harsh environments. In particular, borehole deployments are becoming widespread for reservoir characterization and monitoring. This presentation will provide an overview of Silixa’s technology as well as highlight recent and current earth sciences and infrastrucutre monitoring projects carried out by Silixa’s Missoula, MT office. The challenges of extracting the maximum value from big data along with a vision for the future of advanced, multi-application permanent monitoring systems will also be discussed.


Thomas joined Silixa in 2014 and has been involved in activities ranging from field installations and surveys, data analyses, installation and component design, and business development. In his current role, he oversees Silixa’s Environmental and Infrastructure business in North America including the CCUS, Geothermal, Geotechnical, Industrial, and Defense sectors. Thomas holds a B.S. in Geosciences from the University of Montana, an M.A.Sc. in Water Resources Engineering from the University of Guelph, and is currently working towards an M.B.A. from the University of Montana. Thomas has numerous publications related to fiber optic sensing applications and is co – principal investigator of Department of Energy funded research programs. In 2021, Thomas was awarded the U.S. D.O.E. Secretary’s Achievement Award as part of the Source Physics Dry Alluvium Geology Team for contributions advancing the science of nuclear explosion monitoring.

Upcoming Speakers

Date Speaker Group Summary
April 27 

Allison Barto

Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp

Engineering the James Webb Space Telescope


Past Speakers

Date Speaker Group Summary
March 23

John Howell

Chapman University

Doppler Gyroscopes: Do we really understand the gyroscope?


Krishna Rupavatharam, Ph.D.

Spectrum  Lab

Perspectives on the evolution of microwave and quantum photonics at Spectrum Lab


John W. Sheppard, Ph.D., FIEE

MSU Gianforte School of Computing

Demystifying machine learning through eXplainable AI


Finland Photonics

Finnish Photonics Cluster

Photonics in Finland


Nicholas Borys. Ph.D.

MSU Physics

An introduction to the MonArk NSF Quantum Foundry


Alex Hills

Carnegie Mellon University

Mitigating LEO-to-GEO satellite interference


Stephen Schultz

Brigham Young University, Electrical & computer Engineering

Dynamic measurement of soft body armor using optical fiber sensing


Bradley Whitaker

MSU Electrical & Computer Engineering

How machine learning can help scientists who shoot fish and insects with lasers


Tom Hausekn


Hot topics in optics and photonics


Jim Webb1 & Scott Wohlstein2 

1 G.L. Services, Hertfordshire, England
2 The Photonics Group,West Chester, OH

Using the LaserSafePC software for laser safety calculations 



Brian D'Urso 

MSU Physics Department

Towards precision pulsed levitated optomechanics in a magneto-gravitational trap


Wataru Nakagawa

MSU ECE Department

Nanophotonics Applications and Sabbatical Exploration



Nathan Kuehl

Bryan Scherrer

MSU Physics and ECE Dep'ts Kuehl: Troubleshooting, repair and calibration of Burleigh WA-1500 Wavemeter.

Scherrer: Model and simulation of wing-beat modulation lidar for making 3D maps of flying insects .

11/19/2020 Dr. Charles Kankelborg MSU Physics Department

Designing a far ultraviolet spectrometer for the sun as a starAbstract

11/12/2020 Dr. Ioannis Roudis MSU ECE Department  Nonlinear noise in coherent optical communications systems    Abstract
4/09/2015 Dr. James G. Wessel Seagate Corporation Hard Disc-Drive Recording
3/19/2015 Dr. Jake Jacobsen Synopsys, Optical Solution Group A review of optical design software at Synopsys
2/05/2015 Dr. Mark A. Wistey ECE Department, University of Notre Dame Paths to record lasers and solar cells--and on cheap silicon
11/24/2014 Dr. Olav Solgaard ECE Department, Stanford University Miniaturized endoscopes and implantable sensors for in-vivo studies of cancer biology
11/6/2014 Dr. Kirk Knobelspiesse NASA Ames Research Center Cloud thermodynamic phase detection with polarimetrically sensitive passive sky radiometers.
10/30/2014 Dr. Kris Merkel President & CEO S2 Corporation, Bozeman, MT S2 Extreme Bandwidth Analyzer and Correlator (EBAC):Updates on Improvements and Demonstrations
11/14/2013 Dr. Upendra Singh NASA Langley Research Center Development of a pulsed 2-micron integrated-path differential absorption lidar for CO2 measurements
10/31/2013 Qing Gu University of California - San Diego Semiconductor nanolasers for dense chip-scale integration
9/16/2013 Dr. Jim Schwiegerling College of Optical Sciences - University of Arizona Leading edge optics for optimizing vision
5/14/2013 Dr. John Egan Advanced Photonic Crystals The benefits of low temperature hydrothermal crystal growth
4/25/2013 Dr. Edwin ("Ted") Heilweil National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Time-resolved terahertz studies of carrier dynamics in P3HT and zinc-phthalocyanine/C60 nanolayered thin films
2/26/2013 Dr. Larry Johnson and Dr. Mark Carroll Newport Corporation Part 1. Overview of laser diode technology and applications; Part 2. Job opportunities and desired skills for graduates at Newport/ILX Lightwave
2/8/2013 Dr. Toralf Scharf Institute of Microtechnology, Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne, Switzerland From achromatic microlenses to submicron focusing: physical optics at the micro-scale