SPIE Photonics West 2018 felt incredibly busy, and other attendees I have spoken to share the sentiment. I look back on the conference with the feeling that the professional optics and photonics community is vibrant and keen to engage on many levels.
My week started with a presentation for the SPIE Students Meeting. I presented my experiences as a committee member, president and mentor of the University of Southampton’s Optics and Photonics Society. It was really precious to reflect on my journey amongst a growing and dynamic local student network, through which I have thrived personally and professionally. I am grateful to have been able to share my experiences with a global student community and have the opportunity to meet with peers.
I have joined two SPIE committees in 2018, namely the SPIE Education Committee and Student and Early Career Professional ad hoc Committee. I feel privileged to be part of active discussions and have the opportunity to contribute to guiding the SPIE’s mission. I am excited to be taking part in projects that will be looking to enhance the society’s education endeavours and the participation of student and early career professionals (SEaCarP). As part of my Education “duties” I am working with a smaller sub-committee towards better understanding the impact that the society’s members have through their dedication to outreach and public engagement programs. SEaCarP discussions have focused on enhancing the member experience of early career professionals. If you would like to get in touch to discuss these projects, drop by my LinkedIn profile to talk some more.
This international meeting was a fantastic forum to contextualise my professional and personal development experiences. It has given me the space to ask questions and actively listen to colleagues and friends engaging with the community. It is also great to see familiar faces again and catch up on people’s progress in their work and careers.
I’ve been humming Scott McKenzie’s lyrics for a couple of months now, as I have been planning and preparing my trip to the SPIE Photonics West congress that will be held in San Francisco from Jan. 26th to Feb. 1st. This is the first time that I will attend this conference and needless to say that I am incredibly excited to be travelling back to North America to “the world’s largest photonics technologies event”.
For all SPIE students out there, I will be giving a talk at the Student Chapter Meeting on Sun. 28th Jan called “Building your mentorship toolkit through your student chapter”. Beware, you need to register by Friday, 19 January to attend! See the schedule below for more information.
SPIE Student and Early Career Professional Committee 2018.
I have joined 2 committees of the SPIE, A.K.A the international society for optics and photonics. I will be part of their Education committee and help guide the society in its mission in developing and delivering Education activities worldwide. I am also delighted to join the SEaCarP ad hoc committee (this maritime acronym stands for “Student and Early Career Professional”) with officers whose reputation precedes them. I’m excited to meet or see them again again in San Francisco. I want to take the opportunity to thank SPIE for the Student and Early Career Professional ad hoc Committee member travel grant offered to me to attend Photonics West 2018, as well as their help in the organisation of this trip.
I will be around at technical talks and the trade show throughout the week. I’ve posted my abridged non-technical schedule below, which has lots of times when it might be convenient to meet! If you want to catch up then drop me a message on LinkedIn, Facebook or Whatsapp.
“Where is Matt?”
Abridged non-technical schedule
Sunday 28th Jan
Student Chapter Meeting, Sun. 28th Jan, 18:00-21:00, with my talk “Building your mentorship toolkit through your student chapter”. Registration required at firstname.lastname@example.org by Friday 19 January!
Monday 29th Jan
Essential Skills for a Career in Industry by David Giltner of Turning Science, 13:30-17:30, Intercontinental Hotel. No registration required, but get there early to avoid disappointment!
Women in Optics and Diversity Inclusion Program and Reception, 17:00-19:00, Intercontinental Hotel. Details here.
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!
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.
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.
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.
I am attending the 14th International Conference on Education and Training in Optics and Photonics that is hosted at Zhejiang University, Hangzhou, China. This bi-annual meeting brings together educators from all over the world: this year 230 participants from 28 countries have travelled to Hangzhou to attend ETOP. In the history of this conference, 866 papers have been written to report development on novel teaching methods for students from primary schools to senior postgraduate levels, including 110 on outreach endeavours. I co-authored a paper at the 2015 ETOP event on the outreach program that I have led in Southampton (open access online), but this is my first time in attendance. It is a humbling and inspiring experience to be surrounded by experienced educators that have been advancing teaching in their communities for many years.
Confidence breeds hope…
The plenary session of the conference was “presented” by Eric Mazur. I use inverted commas for presented as this was a masterpiece in engagement, an incredible live demonstration of an educating exercise. It explored the meaning of teaching, illustrated by a live demo of active learning, which gave me that ah-ha moment when I realised how Archimedes’ principle worked (note to self: volume is really important). I have never thought much about my teaching. I have put myself in positions where I could do it, I have enjoyed the process of finding what works, and developed my teaching platform through experienced mentors, peer-collaboration and practice. The talk was a good opportunity to reflect.
How do I understand Teaching now? Teaching is the construction of knowledge. It must be an emotional process, to be efficient. The student goes through the steps of reflection, opinion-forming and discussion to become better informed. The teacher has a role to facilitate the transfer of information, by offering students her/his experience and giving them resources (books, course notes, etc.) to acquire this. The class becomes a safe communal space for peer-learning, with teachers for mentoring, and where students can connect the information with their personal experiences.
Hope breeds peace.” Confucius
At a time of international turmoil, education must serve the purpose of enlightenment. Offering children and adults those “ah-ha” moments is key. Experiencing and engaging with science, research and their applications to their everyday lives are vital ingredient to building knowledge in society. If those smiles I have seen in my education experience can be transferred to everyone’s daily lives, then I feel, candidly perhaps, that the world will be a better place.
I’m excited to be travelling to China. I’m on my way to Hangzhou, which is a couple hours away from Shanghai. This will be a relatively short trip, and a good opportunity to revive the blog with news and pictures of where my research and outreach activities take me! Thanks for tuning in, expect 2-3 posts a week over the next fortnight.
Next week I will be presenting a paper at the 14th International Conference on Education and Training on Optics and Photonics (ETOP) on organising science classes in places where you wouldn’t expect them. This is based around a couple of events, one that I run at the 2016 Winchester Cathedral Primary Science Festival, and another show on particle physics that co-author Alex Jantzen did at Salisbury Cathedral. You’ll read (and see) more about that in due course!
I will also be visiting Zhejiang University to meet with potential collaborators on research projects. I posted a while back on the research I am doing to build photonics integrated circuits to make polarisation filters. An application of these filters is to enhance optical integrated gyroscopes, a type of sensor that can be used for navigation in aerospace or satellites for instance. The polarisation of light in these circuits can cause unwanted sources of noise that are detrimental to the signal they are trying to sense. The technology I’ve been developing could offer a significant improvement of the “signal-to-noise” ratio in these devices. I am looking forward for the opportunity to present my research and find out about work happening in Zhejiang.
I was very near Guangzhou in 2008, but I never visited. Back then I spent time in Shanghai, studying Mandarin Chinese at Fudan University. The memories are great, alas the language skills not so good anymore! I have found that Chinese is an unforgiving language, which will slip away without regular practice! I imagine that in the past 9 years Shanghai has changed a lot, and I’m looking forward to catch up with people and see how things have changed!
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.
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!
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!
The first episode of my travels and research in North America is drawing to a close. It’s been wonderful and I have many people to thank.
I have visited people in 9 universities and 3 companies in the last 8 weeks. Thank you for giving me your time. I have enjoyed having the opportunity to discuss my research, my outreach & education work, and my plans for the future. It has been a true pleasure to meet you and find out what you do and what drives you.
Thank you to all the people that I have met along the way. The new meetings have been rich and inspiring, the reunions have been great. I wish that I will see you again soon.
Thank you to all of you that got me here, kept in touch, and followed the blog; you, unknowingly perhaps, kept me going throughout. My supervisors, Peter and James, for letting me go ahead with this project. Stephan, for encouraging me to blog and enhancing this space with cool maps, videos and a subscriber mailing list. The Lightwave team, all of you who make me feel a part of this wonderful community of research, education and inspiration; it was an honour to present our work at an international conference and tour our kit across North America. And of course, my family, and Mum, Dad, Rebecca for being there, always; and Becky, love of my life.