The dawn of the Information Age and the advent of high-speed internet coincided right around the time Carl Kutsche, Ph.D., ’98, enrolled in CREOL, the College of Optics and Photonics.

“I was all about optical systems—self processing, information storage, 3D holography. You could feel the energy buzzing around the growth of this field,” said Kutsche, the college’s 2021 Distinguished Alumnus. “We had all of these shiny, new puzzle pieces and I wanted to work with the people who were motivated to put that puzzle together.”

A graduate of University of Michigan and the Air Force Institute of Technology, Kutsche chose CREOL for his terminal degree based on the notable scientists it attracted. That talent pipeline paid dividends as he pursued research in optical switching systems, something that would help supplement his future endeavors as a scientist in the field of optics.

“The research I was exposed to as a student at CREOL put me in a place where I felt further ahead and well-equipped in the field,” said Kutsche.

Shortly after graduating from CREOL, Kutsche headed back to the U.S. Air Force Academy to teach undergraduate physics as an associate professor. He was soon offered the position of  technology evaluator in international technology treaties.

“This experience was different from being in the lab,” said Kutsche. “I was able to make a direct impact as an evaluator in a way that is much different from making an impact from the lab. It evolved my perspective as a scientist.”

Years of working in intelligence and management positions pushed Kutsche to explore a different side of optics at the Idaho National Laboratory, where he currently serves as chief technologist.

“I’m effective in my job today because of my past experiences and education,” said Kutsche. “Combining my military experience with international expertise and exposure to research through CREOL has given me the tools I need to be an impactful member of the scientific community.”