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SPIE volunteers tell Congress photonics support is key to economy, education, energy solutions

04 May 2010

BELLINGHAM, Washington, USA -- SPIE volunteers were among nearly 300 who visited Congress last week to emphasize the importance of funding for science and technology R&D and education in creating new jobs, growing a better-educated workforce, and solving the nation's energy needs.SPIE CVD 2010 team

SPIE hosted 12 volunteers representing 8 states in this year's Science-Engineering-Technology Working Group's annual Congressional Visits Day (CVD). Visits were made to the offices of Representatives and Senators in the volunteers' home districts as well as particular committee staff.

Timing of CVD coincides with the House of Representatives taking up the President's budget proposals for Fiscal Year 2011, and with a vote on reauthorization of the America COMPETES Act by the House Science and Technology Committee.

Reps. Ralph Hall and David Wu, winners of the Gordon E. Brown, Jr., Science-Engineering-Technology Leadership Award"Nufern was very pleased to participate in the CVD events arranged by SPIE and its sister organizations," said Nufern President Martin Seifert, President. "We were able to make very persuasive arguments to our representatives for continued and increased government spending to support U.S. science, technology, and engineering and to address competitiveness issues such as revising the current U.S. system for export controls."

Nufern was also among a dozen companies helping to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the laser this year by providing laser technology demonstrations at an awards reception Wednesday evening reception in the Rayburn House Office Building. Rep. David Wu (D-Oregon) and Rep. Ralph Hall (R-Texas) were recognized for their support with the presentation at the reception of the 2010 George E. Brown, Jr., Science-Engineering-Technology Leadership Awards.

To further underscore the importance of the role of scientific research, on Thursday Rep. Vern Ehlers (R-Michigan)Rep. Vern Ehlers and SPIE President Ralph James at CVD 2010 introduced a resolution commemorating the 50th anniversary of the laser. The resolution is scheduled to be considered on the House floor on 4 May.

Innovation: R&D and education

The SPIE CVD team found Congressional offices receptive toward efforts to overcome unnecessary barriers to exporting. CVD teams also urged support for long-term funding of the Department of Defense SBIR-STTR programs that provide early-stage R&D funding for small technology companies or entrepreneurs and to small companies collaborating with researchers at universities and research institutions.

Other issues which the CVD teams told Congress would help strengthen the economy and meet energy needs included:

  • Photonics research initiatives such as SEMATECH and the National Nanotechnology Initiative
  • R&D programs of the National Science Foundation (NSF), Dept. of Energy (DOE) Office of Science, and National Institute for Standards in Technology
  • Programs that support the President's "Educate to Innovate Campaign," such as the Dept. of Education Effective Teaching and Learning: STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) Program; the NSF Education and Human Resources Directorate; and the DOE RE-ENERGYSE Program
  • Legislation to award permanent residency status to immigrants who receive advanced degrees in science, technology, engineering, or math from a U.S. university.

"Participating in the Congressional Visits Day was an inspiring experience for me," said Hannah Noble, a graduate student and the Technology Transfer Scientific Fellow in Optics at the College of Optical Sciences, Univ. of Arizona. "It was wonderful to have an opportunity to contribute my own ideas and perspectives concerning the issues facing the scientific community to the legislative process, and to raise awareness about the importance of optics technologies in our every day lives."

Volunteers on the SPIE CVD team included:

  • Hannah Noble, Arizona
  • Robert Lieberman and Andrew Sparks, California
  • Stephen Hahn, Colorado
  • Martin Seifert, Alan Levesque, and Timothy Hsiao, Connecticut
  • Noureddine Melikechi, Delaware
  • Christopher Middlebrook, Michigan
  • Thomas Tongue and Ralph James, New York
  • Marc Himel, North Carolina.

Photo captions, from top:

The 2010 SPIE Congressional Visits Day team, from left, in front row, Hannah Noble, Christopher Middlebrook, Ralph James; second, Alan Levesque, Marc Himel, Thomas Tongue, Robert Boege (SPIE Washington Representative); third, Robert Lieberman, Andrew Sparks; fourth, Martin Seifert, Noureddine Melikechi.

Reps. Ralph Hall, left, and David Wu received this year's Gordon E. Brown, Jr., Science-Engineering-Technology Leadership Award.

Rep. Vern Ehlers, one of three physicists serving in Congress and a strong supporter of science R&D and STEM education, and SPIE President Ralph James join in the laser anniversary celebration at last week's SET Congressional Visits Day reception.

SPIE , the international society for optics and photonics, was founded in 1955 to advance light-based technologies. Serving more than 188,000 constituents from 138 countries, the Society advances emerging technologies through interdisciplinary information exchange, continuing education, publications, patent precedent, and career and professional growth. SPIE annually organizes and sponsors approximately 25 major technical forums, exhibitions, and education programs in North America, Europe, Asia, and the South Pacific, and supports scholarships, grants, and other education programs around the world. In Europe, SPIE supports the optics and photonics community by acting as an advocate and liaison to political and industry associations.

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