Thomas Kraus

thomas krausBS optics '05, Take Five '06, MS optics '07

Occupation: Staff engineer: Optical Systems at Areté Associates and adjunct faculty at Virginia International University
Residence: Springfield, VA
Family: Wife Emily (LaDuque W '05), son Ben ('32?)
Community activities: Alexandria Harmonizers (all-male barbershop chorus)

What activities were you involved in as a student and what did you gain from them?

My two biggest activities were the Midnight Ramblers and the Meridian Society. Through the Ramblers, I was able to help organize and execute three national spring break tours, a variety of on- and off-campus events, and too many other things to mention. I learned everything from organization and event planning, large scale logistics (i.e. How do you feed and house 15 guys for 10 days in a place you have never been before?). Most importantly, how to think, define, and execute on my own. The Meridian Society gave me a great opportunity to better my speaking and presentations skills in front of large crowds. And of course, walk backwards!

What did you do immediately after graduation? How did you decide to take that path?

I headed down to Washington, D.C. to start at Areté Associates, a R&D firm doing government research. They offered me a great job that is very challenging, but also very rewarding. And traveling to the beach (i.e. Outer Banks, Hawaii, etc.) for great research opportunities isn't bad either!

What skills, tools, or knowledge from your major have been most useful to you since graduation?

Optics majors know all too well that we take all of these classes that, on the surface, appear to have minimal overlap. I mean, what does quantum optics, image processing, and fluid-dynamics have in common? Well, learning how to take a variety of ideas then piecing them together in an unusual way is at the core of my job.

How do you balance your work and professional life?

It is tough. After graduation it was just me; now I have a family, home, and other commitments. It took some time, but I now know how to say no to personal and professional commitments and prioritize. You can't be everywhere and everything to everybody, but you can choose to make the most of what time you have.

How are you still connected with the University?

I volunteer my time with the Young Alumni Council (YAC) where we help organize and develop alumni programs directed towards alumni 0-10 years out. I recently served as the committee chair for the 2005 5th Reunion Council and helped to plan events and fundraising for our class. I am also involved with URInvolved and volunteer to staff college fairs in my area, interview prospective UR students, and make follow-up phone calls to accepted students.

What advice do you have for current students?

The best advice is what I heard from Stephen Fantone ('79 optics PhD). To paraphrase his talk to us: Push yourself to failure now, not later. Take too many classes and be involved in too many activities and see what you can handle, then push yourself some more. What is the worst that is going to happen? You get a bad grade in a class? Take it over. You have to stay up all night? Have some coffee. After college is the wrong time to find out exactly how much you can handle. The consequences are much more severe: loss of job, family, home, etc. Now is the perfect time to test yourself!