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Solar, nanoscience, photonics, and optical engineering get attention at SPIE Optics+Photonics

BELLINGHAM, WA, USA - 20 August 2008 - SPIE Optics+Photonics drew 4,812 attendees this year, an impressive count for the even-year version of the symposium, when conferences on Astronomical Instrumentation and related topics are held in a separate venue (this year, in Marseilles, France). Optics+Photonics ran 10-14 August in the San Diego, CA, Convention Center.

The interdisciplinary Optics+Photonics event draws a truly intellectually curious crowd, said Event Manager Marilyn Gorsuch. "Not everyone is working in solar or nanotechnology or solid-state lighting, but they turn up to the plenary sessions just to learn more about what is going on," she said. "The cross-disciplinary reality of this meeting means that the solar plenary speaker is talking about nanotechnology, the nano plenary speaker is talking about applications for solar, and so on. These links crop up everywhere throughout the week."

SPIE Optics+Photonics 2009 will be held 2-6 August at the San Diego Convention Center.

The event included 72 conferences organized into four symposia, on Solar Energy, NanoScience, Photonic Devices, and Optical Engineering. Professional education courses, an exhibition, plenary sessions, networking activities, an awards banquet, and other special events complemented the technical program.

The approximately 2,800 conference proceedings papers are being published immediately as approved in the SPIE Digital Library (see spie.org/x2836.xml for more information, or access the SPIE Digital Library at spiedigitallibrary.com).

Attendance was particularly strong -- including some standing-room-only audiences -- in conferences on solar energy, plasmonics, x-ray tomography, lens design, organic photovoltaics and OLEDs, solid-state lighting, and nanotechnologies.

An opening-day crowd heard all-conference plenary speaker Richard King, director of the U.S. Department of Energy (DoE) Solar Decathlon. Read more about King's talk and notes from several topical plenary talks in the Onsite News compiled from the meeting at spie.org/x6692.xml.

Successful exhibition

With 279 exhibiting companies from some 20 countries, this year's Optics+Photonics exhibition was the largest ever held with the annual symposium. Companies included optical fabricators, lens designers, software makers, optical fiber makers, optical test and measurement equipment builders, optical materials and substrates producers, and optical detector manufacturers.

Company representatives and exhibit visitors said they were happy with the exhibition.

"I saw plenty of existing clients here and many new prospects," said Luc De Brouckere of XenICs.

"Nearly all of our customers are at Optics+Photonics," said Linda Bechtold of OptiPro, adding that the mix of middle management and shop personnel who attend the event is also an asset.

"I came with a list of things I need to buy," said Gordon Mitchell of Future Focus. "What is nice about this exhibition compared to just looking on the internet is that if the booth you're visiting doesn't have what you need, they will refer you to the booth across the aisle so you can find the best fit. I get to speak to suppliers in person, and everyone is very relaxed."

The Viking XX, an award-winning solar car built by students in Western Washington University's Vehicle Research Institute, underscored a theme of sustainable energy and lighting systems and components in the exhibition.

Achievements honored

Outstanding research, service to the community, and other accomplishments and contributions to the field were honored at an awards banquet. (Read more about these and other SPIE 2008 award winners at spie.org/x45.xml.

  • John Gille, National Center for Atmospheric Research, was awarded the George W. Goddard Award.
  • James Harrington, Rutgers University, received the SPIE Directors' Award.
  • Robert A. Lieberman, Intelligent Optical Systems, received the SPIE President's Award.
  • Robert Fischer and Graham Brewis offered a tribute to Warren J. Smith, author and Past President and Fellow of SPIE, who died last June.
  • Nikolay Makarov, Montana State University, received the $11,000 D. J. Lovell Scholarship, sponsored by SPIE with contributions from Labsphere, Inc.

M. J. Soileau, 2008 SPIE Gold Medal Award winner and Professor of Optics, Electrical and Computer Engineering and Physics and Vice President for Research at the University of Central Florida, gave the banquet keynote speech. He is a Past President and Fellow of SPIE, and previously received the SPIE Director's Award.

Sixteen new Fellows were inducted at the Banquet, bringing the total to 72 new SPIE Fellows in 2008. See a complete list of new SPIE Fellows at spie.org/x32.xml.

Awards were also given at other events throughout the week.

  • Larry Dalton, University of Washington, was honored with a tribute conference, and with presentation of a Lifetime Achievement Award and Certificate of Life Membership in SPIE.
  • Ozan Cakmakci, College of Optics and Photonics, University of Central Florida, was awarded the William H. Price Scholarship in Optical Engineering.
  • Accidental art was celebrated in a Fringe Art contest run by chairs of the Interferometry: Techniques and Analysis conference, Katherine Creath and Joanna Schmit. Fringes are a metrology tool for gaining information about object shape, distance, motion, deformation, thickness, and material properties, and often form fascinating shapes with intense color. The conference began a contest to celebrate the visual variation of fringes several years ago. Attendees voted the entry of Melissa Palacio López,Universidad Nacional de Colombia Sede Medellín,as their favorite this year; see it at unalmed.edu.co/~ceomedellin/docs/peliculas%20liquidas%20delgadas.pdf.

Communicating science to the masses

Scientists need the public to understand what they're doing, so that good personal and public policy decisions can be made in an increasingly technologically driven world, science writer Margaret Wertheim told an overflow audience at a Women in Optics reception. The challenge is that in general the public know very little about science, and need more perspective in order to understand concepts. The reception was one of several networking and special events held during the week.

Wertheim has authored articles and books on the cultural impacts of physics, currently contributes to the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times and lectures widely at universities and colleges around the world. She co-founded the Institute For Figuring (IFF), which promotes public understanding of the poetic and aesthetic dimensions of science and mathematics (see theiff.org).

For the next generation

SPIE hosted several special events for students and early career professionals (ECPs):

  • A dozen optics educators and other professionals offered career advice and tips on giving effective presentations, job interviewing, writing proposals and journal articles, and spreading the word about the importance of science education.
  • SPIE CEO Eugene Arthurs emphasized the vast array of opportunities in the field of optics and photonics, and the growing need for and shortage of technical professionals to solve climate, energy, health, manufacturing, and other problems affecting humanity. "Solutions to these problems will require technical, economic, social, and political skills," Arthurs said. "You can make a difference, and I urge you to do so."
  • Winners of a website competition among SPIE Student Chapters were announced, and included SPIE student chapters at Stanford University (USA), International School of Photonics (India), Wroclaw University of Technology (Poland), University of Texas at Austin (USA, and in Singapore.
  • More than 100 students attended a leadership workshop to learn how to create and sustain an SPIE Student Chapter, exchanging ideas about how to motivate colleagues at their respective universities to participate in outreach and professional development activities.

SPIE President Kevin Harding, GE Global Research, encouraged students to make sure they sat in on at least one conference at SPIE Optics+Photonics that covered "something you know nothing about," because the field of optics and photonics requires interdisciplinary collaboration and innovation.