2019 New York Photonics / RRPC Awards

Rochester Museum and Science Center Strasenburgh Planetarium

ROCHESTER, NY, November 20, 2019 – The Rochester Regional Photonics Cluster / New York Photonics has honored five leaders in education and business for their contributions to New York’s Optics and Photonics Industry.

RRPC Executive Director Tom Battley presented the awards before stakeholders from industry, government and education from across the region at the New York Photonics 2019 Annual Meeting, November 19th at the Rochester Museum and Science Center’s Strasenburgh Planetarium.

The RRPC Entrepreneurship Award is given each year to individuals demonstrating creativity, innovative spirit and drive in pursuit of the dream of creating an industry-leading company in the Optics, Photonics and Imaging Industry. The Entrepreneurship Award recipients for 2019 are Neil Elli – Empire Precision Plastics (Rochester, NY) and Jayson Tierson and Joseph Serio – Vertex Optics (Victor, NY).

Neal Elli

Neal Elli, President, Empire Precision Plastics started the company in 1992 after years of sales experience in manufacturing. His experience, passion, and vision for the industry allowed Empire to grow year over year. His success is, in no small part, due to how much he cares for people. Not only his own employees, but also his customers and the goals they are trying to achieve. At Empire, every day is spent considering, “How do we help our customers achieve their goals?”

In 2012, Empire was looking to create a niche market and found optics the most appealing. Being in Rochester, New York allowed easy access to some of the leaders in the industry. Neal met with Lightwave and immediately saw a team well aligned with his personal philosophy and passion for scientific and precision molding. Neal brought in the staff and equipment from Lightwave and the team got to work bringing all processes up to Empire’s quality and ISO standards. Over the years, Empire has invested in their capabilities in polymer optics molding, single point diamond turning, and in-house coating. This has allowed us to work on projects in lighting, imagery, reflective optics and R&D projects.

Today, Empire continues the tradition of internal investment through floor training and recruitment of talented individuals. Empire has recently invested in improvements to their processes. They have created the Idea Factory, which helps customers take their ideas and turn them into a repeatable manufacturing plan. Their Technology Center, which includes a fully stocked tool room with trial presses, allows Empire to check that process before full production. Operations have been upgraded with white room capabilities for medical devices and optics, all of which were born of Neal’s unceasing vision for improvement and customer satisfaction. Neal has ensured that at Empire, “Where your Ideas Take Shape” is more than just a slogan.

Jayson Tierson and Joseph Serio founded Vertex in January, 2019, only ten months ago. They currently employ 12 people in their 8,200 square foot facility in Victor.

Jayson, President of Vertex, entered the precision optics industry in 1996 as an optical fabrication technician. He has an extensive background in product development as well as domestic and

Jason Tierney, President, left; Joseph Serio, Vice President, right

international business development. Prior to founding Vertex Optics, Jayson worked at OptiPro for over a decade, where he was responsible for creating new technologies utilizing OptiPro’s products as the Director of Technology Solutions. He has also successfully worked his way up through companies such as Optimax, Corning Tropel, and Coherent Laser. One of Jayson’s most recent accomplishments includes teaching at Monroe Community College in the Optical Systems Technology Program.

Joseph Serio, founder and Vice President of Vertex, began his career as an optical fabrication technician at Optimax Systems in 1995, and has since worked in nearly every facet of optical manufacturing and engineering, project management, and workforce development. Joe has an Associate’s Degree in Optical Systems Technology from Monroe Community College, a mini MBA through the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) Saunders School of Business, and credentials including ISO 9001 internal auditor, Lean Six Sigma Black Belt, Lean Leadership and Facilitative Leadership Program, and is also a NASA Community College Aerospace Scholars (NCAS) alumnus.


Julian Goldstein

The RRPC Leadership Award is given each year to an individual for working with RRPC members and the community to promote the Rochester Region’s Optics, Photonics and Imaging Industry. The Leadership Award recipient for 2019 is Julian Goldstein, co-President of Navitar.

Since 2012, RRPC has designated the Rochester Museum & Science Center as a key partner in Optics, Photonics & Imaging education and the regional OPI ecosystem. In 2015 Steve Fentress, Planetarium Director, asked RRPC to sponsor the distribution of polarizing slides for teaching students about the polarization effect. Julian Goldstein, co-president of Navitar stepped up with a donation and paid for the slides. Thus began a four-year relationship between Navitar and the RMSC Planetarium culminating in the donation of the $100K optics for the new Ernst and Young projectors, and the remodeling of the RMSC Planetarium into its 2019 configuration. Julian continues to engage the RMSC on its mission and capital campaign.

This continued engagement is critical to the advancement and continued modernization of the Rochester Museum & Science Center into an “International Center of Light” where children, parents, teachers and community stakeholders learn about physics and the science of light. In accepting his award Goldstein acknowledged former Monroe County Assemblyman, and current Congressman from New York’s 25th District Joe Morelle, and John Bruning, founder of Tropel Corporation (now Corning Fairport), a trustee of the Rochester Museum & Science Center and the winner of the 2017 New York Photonics Leadership Award.


Julie Bentley

The RRPC Education Award is given each year to an individual for inspiring students to embrace Optics, Photonics, and Imaging sciences and guiding them in career development. The Education Award recipient for 2019 is Julie Bentley, Associate Professor, University of Rochester Institute of Optics.

Julie received her BS degree in optics from the Institute in 1990. She also received her PhD from the Institute. Her PhD thesis focused on the integration of the design and manufacture of gradient-index optical systems. After graduating she spent two years at Hughes Aircraft Co. in California designing optical systems for the defense industry and twelve years at Corning Tropel Corporation in Fairport, NY, designing and manufacturing precision optical assemblies such as micro lithographic inspection systems. Bentley started teaching at the University of Rochester in 1998. Her main teaching interests include geometrical optics, optical design, and tolerancing. Bentley has been instrumental in teaching and helping many young optics entrepreneurs develop their first designs and launch their optics businesses.

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New York Photonics is a not-for-profit organization founded to promote and enhance the New York State optics, photonics and imaging industry by fostering the cooperation of business, academia and government.


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