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Biomedical Optics & Medical Imaging

Climbing the Hill

Silvia Mioc is actively involved with science-related U.S. legislative efforts, including the upcoming Congressional Visits Day in May.

From oemagazine April 2005
31 April 2005, SPIE Newsroom. DOI: 10.1117/2.5200504.0010

Silvia Mioc at Breckenridge Ski Resort (Breckenridge, CO) holding GE Healthcare's portable oximeter, Tuffsat. The oximeter optically measures what percentage of hemoglobin carries oxygen; Mioc used the device to check her saturation on the slopes.

There are many sides of Silvia Mioc's professional life - her research in medical device technology, her predilection for science and technology policy, and her grass-roots photonics industry work. Most striking, though, is her innate sense of synergy, which has undoubtedly affected the success of all her professional efforts.

Originally from Romania, Mioc moved to the United States in the early 1980s and earned her BS, MS, and PhD all at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Most recently, at GE Healthcare, Mioc was a key member of the research and development (R&D) department, where she conducted market research of new technologies to be pursued for long-term development and established an international network of researchers and clinicians interested in these technologies.

Mile-High Photonics

Where Mioc seems to really hit her stride, though, is in the variety of volunteer work she does. Most notably, she's president of the Colorado Photonics Industry Association (CPIA), a member of SPIE's Engineering, Science, and Technology Policy (ESTeP) Committee, a member of the Optical Society of America's (OSA) Public Policy Committee, and a core member of the SPIE Women in Optics working group.

Mioc first became involved with CPIA as the public relations/marketing chair. "This happened just as I had gone back to school to get my MBA," she says. "CPIA was a great outlet for me to put in practice everything I was learning in school."

After a little arm twisting, she was convinced to move into the vice-president position, and last year, she became president of the CPIA board. One of her key accomplishments was the success of the Colorado Cluster at the SPIE Annual Meeting last August in Denver, CO, and her effort in establishing CPIA as a cosponsor of the meeting.

Raising Visibility

With SPIE, Mioc's greatest involvement has been as part of the ESTeP Committee. "The committee is diversified between academia, government, and industry, and it tries to be representative of SPIE membership as a whole," Mioc says.

The main objective of the ESTeP Committee is to inform and educate U.S. legislators about issues involving science and technology. For example, U.S. senators and representatives form informal groups with shared interests called caucuses. Last year the ESTeP Committee co-hosted presentations exploring different aspects of photonics in layman's terms at a luncheon event for the R&D Caucus.

Another effort the committee had a hand in was impacting the recent lengthening of Visas Mantis clearances for students and visiting scientists. "After September 11 one of the problems scientists and graduate students had in coming to the U.S. was that their visas were very limited. If they went home there were many cases when they weren't let back in the country. Of course this was impacting conferences and universities; invited talks had to be cancelled because people couldn't come to the conferences, and research wasn't getting done," Mioc explains. "Together with other organizations, SPIE was involved in raising legislators' awareness of the unintended complications of the visa process and its adverse effect on the scientific community."

Pushing for optics to be listed in the standard occupational codes prior to the 2010 U.S. census and cosponsoring the SPIE-OSA Congressional Fellow are other concerns of the ESTeP Committee. The event Mioc is most passionate about, however, is Congressional Visits Day (CVD). "Maintaining a legislative presence in Washington, D.C., is one area we've identified as being extremely important, and CVD is a big part of that," Mioc says.

CVD is a two-day annual event organized by the Science-Engineering-Technology Work Group, a coalition of many societies like SPIE, academic associations and institutions, and trade associations. CVDs bring scientists, engineers, researchers, educators, and technology executives to Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., to raise visibility and support for science-related matters. "It's pretty impressive and very well organized," Mioc says.

The first day of the event consists of both specific training by individual societies and general briefings for all CVD participants. On the second day, teams of participants visit and present their issues to representatives. Usually at least one of the participants lives in the legislative district of the representative with whom the group meets.

"It's very empowering and very exciting really," Mioc says. "It's also interesting to see how many other groups are there on the Hill at the same time. Everybody is asking for increases in the budget, but each group is interested in different issues. Basically, the overall pool of money is finite, so it really makes you realize how important making your voice heard in D.C. is."

This year, CVD is set for 10 - 11 May. For more information on the program, see the website at www.aas.org/policy/cvd/.

Get Involved

"I would like to, in general, urge people to get involved with their elected officials, whether it's at the local level or at the federal level. It's extremely important to make your opinion known. Don't underestimate the power of a phone call or a letter to your elected officials; they are very important."

Mioc recognizes that a trip to Washington, D.C., isn't feasible for everyone, but she says there are ways to get involved at the local level as well. Contacting local offices of elected officials is an important step and getting involved with cluster organizations is another option.

To find an optics and photonics cluster in your area, visit www.photonicsclusters.com. For help contacting your representatives in Washington, D.C., email Krisinda Plenkovich at krisindap@spie.org.

"ESTeP, and legislative action in general, is something that's very dear to my heart," Mioc says. "I think it makes a difference, and I hope that more people realize it's important and get involved."