Worldwide Universities Networks

During my recent trip to China I had the opportunity to meet with researchers in my field of integrated photonics. Through Chaotan Sima, an alumni of my research group in the Optoelectronics Research Centre, I was introduced to Professor Huilian Ma, of Zhejiang University’s Laboratory of Micro-Optic Gyroscopes in the school of Aeronautics and Astronautics. The research centre has approximately 40 research students and 10 professors. I had the pleasure of meeting Prof. Ma’s group, including my PhD student-counterpart Jianjie Zhang. I am extremely grateful for the kind and generous reception of my hosts, who made me discover Hangzhou food and helped me settle in after an eventful travel. Credit goes to them too for all the pictures in the post!

A warm reception to Hangzhou, with Prof. H Ma's research group and Chaotan Sima, to my right.
A warm reception to Hangzhou, with (left to right) Lu Ying, Lin Yi, Ma Huilian, Sima Chaotan, Posner 马修 (me!), Zhang Jianjie, Ye Sen and Li Hanzhao. In Chinese, it’s first surname, then given name!

The visit was a great opportunity to learn about how photonics integrated circuits can be used as optical gyroscopes. Gyroscopes are used to stabilise position of navigation systems or automatic pilots independent of their movement of rotation. It is important for space applications, such as in satellites orbiting around the earth, where the ability to accurately determine position is of the utmost importance. Normally gyroscopes have moving (mechanical) parts, so can be delicate to package and send safely up to the space! The integration of these devices leads to more stable, smaller and scalable technologies.

Prof. Ma’s group at Zhejiang University is developing integrated optical gyroscopes on chips the size of a large stamp. They design and test prototypes on a silica-(glass)-on-silicon platform. These devices must maintain a very high signal-to-noise ratio to be efficient sensors. A well-known problem for optical gyroscopes is that the signal can be degraded by imperfect polarisations of the laser source used with these systems. In Southampton I had been researching ways to create on-chip polarisation filters compatible with silica technology, which could improve the performance of these devices. In the months leading up to this trip I had received some prototypes to test the suitability of the Southampton Direct UV Writing laser system to make polarizing filters using tilted gratings in waveguides, using the fabrication techniques I’ve discussed previously. The visit gave me the opportunity to present the work I’ve conducted to date and understand the testing methods. It’s been extremely worthwhile discussing the project directly with the people involved, and I’m looking forward to further experimental work that will arise from these discussions.

Professor Huilian Ma, I, and ORC alumni Chaotan Sima discussing preliminary test results of the integrated optical gyroscopes.
Professor Ma Huilian, Sima Chaotan and I discussing preliminary test results of the integrated optical gyroscopes, with some refreshing seasonal fruits.

Shanghai and Suzhou

I spent a long weekend re-exploring Shanghai (8 years since my last visit) and discovering the quaint town of Suzhou. Enjoy the pictures!


Shanghai

Shanghai Bund, 2017. 8 years later, with more facial hair!
Shanghai Bund, 2017. 8 years later, with more facial hair!
The Shanghai response to New York
The Shanghai response to New York.
Shanghai landmarks: the Oriental Pearl TV Tower
Shanghai landmarks: the Oriental Pearl TV Tower.
The Shanghai Big Three: World Financial Tower, Jinmao Tower, Gensler Tower (left to right)
The Shanghai Big Three: World Financial Tower, Jinmao Tower, Gensler Tower (left to right).
Coffee with a view at Park Hyatt, on floor 87!
Coffee with a view at Park Hyatt, on floor 87!
The Shanghai Museum, on People's Square
The Shanghai Museum, on People’s Square.

Suzhou

Lion Grove Gardens, UNESCO world heritage site.
Lion Grove Gardens, UNESCO world heritage site.
Rock sculptures are important features in Suzhou Gardens.
Rock sculptures are important features in Suzhou Gardens.
The rock exhibition at Lion Grove Gardens.
The rock exhibition at Lion Grove Gardens.
North Pagoda Temple and gardens, Suzhou
North Pagoda Temple and gardens, Suzhou.
Buddha in the Pagoda, North Temple Pagoda, Suzhou
Buddha in the Pagoda, North Temple Pagoda, Suzhou.
Suzhou Xi Dong Xie pedestrian street
Suzhou Xi Dong Xie pedestrian street.
Suzhou canals, off Pingjiang Road.
Suzhou canals, off Pingjiang Road.

Every day is a school day

The 14th International Conference on Education and Training in Optics and Photonics has offered me a unique perspective into how local community and institutional education work ties into the bigger picture. The conference featured 1 plenary, 16 keynotes and 16 invited talks, in addition to 8 parallel sessions. I have developed my understanding of classroom teaching methods and been inspired by case studies at regional, national and international level. I have found out about useful tools and evaluation techniques that I wish to integrate into my future activities. I am struck by the overwhelming desire to better the global education system and prepare the skilled workforce needed for the next photonics technology revolution.

Coming into this conference I was hoping to get some insight on the role of industry in the education sector. This came, often in unexpected places! I attended a workshop given by Judith Donnelly (Judy) in Problem-Based Learning, a pedagogy that was adapted to the photonics technology sector as a result of an industry demand for students to be better prepared for the workplace. Some educators related their experiences of delivering successful projects working alongside industry, where students trained in technical photonics skills were being scooped up by companies in the private sector. It was encouraging to see a small number of members of industry participating in this conference with stands and talks. Tsutomu Hara from Hamamatsu offered some perspective on outreach programs offered in the private sector to develop the public’s appreciation of Optics and Photonics technologies, as well as educational and training activities implemented to train students.

Creating a world "wherein the intriguing nature and limitless potential of light are communicated and educated to the younger generation.
Creating a world “wherein the intriguing nature and limitless potential of light are communicated and educated to the younger generation.”

I was also going to attend a second workshop organised by Judy, which is called Dumpster Optics. It aims to teach graduate students how to use simple experiments to explain optics phenomena to children. I’d developed a workshop with similar aims in the past (see TS Squared) so I was looking forward to getting some new perspectives. To facilitate the communication exercise Judy, had invited conference attendees to bring their children; as a unforeseen consequence, the children outnumbered the adults considerably. Doff the student cap, don the teacher hat, and here I am, bemused, standing with Mei, local student turned translator, Judy and her assistant-son Matt, in front of 40 very excited Chinese children. It was unsuspectingly amusing to be faced with exactly what got me there: a classroom full of very excited primary school students with bags of experiments at their disposal! I learnt that “Wow” does not get lost in translation, and I it was a pleasure to give these children the opportunity of practising hands-on experiments and experiencing various optics phenomena.

"How did this happen?", I must be thinking. Teaching under the guidance of Judy, and saved by our excellent student translator Mei.
“How did this happen?”, I must be thinking. Teaching under the guidance of Judy, and saved by our excellent student translator Mei. Picture courtesy of Judy Donnelly

Zhejiang Province

Welcome to my gallery of photos from Zhejiang province, featuring highlights from Hangzhou and surrounding areas. Enjoy!

Update 01/06 – Visiting Lingyin and Yongfu temples

A warn day exploring the Yongfu temple, Hangzhou
A warm day exploring the Yongfu temple, Hangzhou
"His belly is big enough to ingest all of the evils of the Earth"
“His belly is big enough to ingest all of the evils of the Earth”
Shrines in Yongu temple - front side
Shrines in Yongfu temple – front side
Shrines in Yongu temple - back side
Shrines in Yongfu temple – back side
Tea fields and temples
Tea fields and temples

Update 30/05 – Impression  Westlake Show

Light-fan: an amazing show of lights and reflection
Light-fan: an amazing show of lights and reflection
How many dancers were there? Illusions and projections of ballerinas on the lake.
How many dancers were there? Illusions and projections of ballerinas on the lake.
The show finale
The show finale

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West Lake Panorama, Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province, China.
West Lake Panorama, Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province, China.
British tourist in Hangzhou, West Lake, China.
British tourist in Hangzhou, West Lake, China.
Calm Lake Pavillion vista, Hangzhou
Calm Lake Pavillion vista, Hangzhou
Flowery walks in Hangzhou city centre
Flowery walks in Hangzhou city centre
Grandma's Home restaurant
Grandma’s Home restaurant
Sunday lunch
Sunday lunch

Career crafting

Happy International Women’s Day!

On Wednesday 8th March I travelled to the University of Exeter for a workshop organised by their Optics and Photonics society. They hosted an event called “Scientists and Engineers Can Do Anything: How to Create Your Dream Career” with, as a special guest all the way from the USA, SPIE visiting lecturer Alaina Levine. I was invited as part of a delegation from the University of Southampton’s Optics and Photonics Society. Thanks to the team in Exeter for the invitation and for letting me use their pictures in this post.

Alaina Levine signing her latest book "Networking for Nerds".
Alaina Levine signing her latest book “Networking for Nerds”.

The day consisted of a series of talks to develop networking and communication skills, with an emphasis on why these are important to build one’s career. Alaina covered a wide range of topics ranging from entrepreneurial to science-communication careers, illustrated by an colourful collection of personal stories. I particularly enjoyed the first session that focused on international job search. Finding a job abroad may seem like a painful experience. Her advice was to commit to the cause and show you’re invested into making it happen. It’s important to look out for opportunities, keep informed on who is growing and hiring. Google News Alerts and job adverts are useful tools; networks are essential to uncover many more unknown or hidden opportunities!

Networking with students from the University of Exeter's Optics and Photonics Society, comprised of an SPIE student chapter.
Networking with students from the University of Exeter’s Optics and Photonics Society, comprised of an SPIE student chapter.

A career in North America is something I am excited about, and this workshop was a motivation booster. My PhD is coming to an end and a move is going to happen in the near future. It is refreshing to hear that all it takes is creativity, courage and hard work, a set of skills that I wish will see me through to the end of my studies!

 

Hampshire

Welcome back to the UK. Here are some pictures taken from sunny Hampshire.

The Milbury's at Beauworth
The Milbury’s at Beauworth
Old Winchester Hill panorama
Old Winchester Hill panorama
Southampton Tudor House
Southampton Tudor House
Bargate, Southampton
Bargate, Southampton
The Guildhall, Southampton
The Guildhall, Southampton
Southampton: the old, not so old and modern.
Southampton: the old, not so old and modern.
St Michael's Church, Southampton
St Michael’s Church, Southampton
The daily commute through the Common
The daily commute through the Common
Southampton University Highfield Campus
Southampton University Highfield Campus
Eling Marina
Eling Marina
The Isle of Wight from Lepe
The Isle of Wight from Lepe
Beach Time, Lepe
Beach Time, Lepe
Over the Heath to Ipley cross, New Forest National Park
Over the Heath to Ipley cross, New Forest National Park
Beaulieu
Beaulieu
Exploring roads in the New Forest National Park
Exploring roads in the New Forest National Park