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SPIE Professional April 2010

Making a Difference

President's Letter

By Ralph B. James, 2010 SPIE President

ralph jamesWe who work in optics and photonics are in a doubly powerful position to help meet many of the challenges that people face around the world: providing healthcare for an aging society and in developing regions, improving energy efficiency, managing climate change, expanding and stabilizing communications networks and delivery, ensuring safety of bridges and other transportation infrastructure, and safeguarding security systems.

Just as important, we are also in a unique position to inform and support efforts to increase the scope and impact of education in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) that will enable the next generation of innovators to meet these challenges and to ensure the ongoing development of a competitive workforce.

Leaders throughout the world are calling for more focus on STEM education. The United States, Korea, Japan, the European Union, and other countries have launched programs to coordinate government, industry, and academic efforts to expand the scope and opportunities for STEM education from elementary school through post-grad, and to train teachers in STEM education.

The Europe 2020 Strategy recently released by the European Commission calls out education and training as tools for helping Europe emerge from economic crisis and prepare its economy for the next decade. The strategy includes a target of increasing graduates in math, science, and technology by 15%.

As students and as working professionals, we can each help support STEM education in our communities, as advisers to our schools, advocates with our legislators, and volunteers.

As members of SPIE, we can have even more impact by supporting the Society's activities.

Among the most gratifying experiences in my own association with the Society have been the opportunities to see first-hand how SPIE supports education: handing an award to a student that enables her research in utilizing optics and nanotechnology for cancer detection, congratulating a professor on the funding of his program to train physics teachers in a developing country, honoring top student paper authors from an outstanding field of contenders, and much more.

Supportive Programs

This year, SPIE will advance STEM education in numerous ways for students at nearly all levels. Among them is participation in or support of:

  • SPIE scholarships, student travel grants, science fairs, and best-paper prizes
  • Education Outreach Grant program funding for projects such as hands-on solar-car or telescope-building workshops
  • Laser science demonstrations and workshops funded by SPIE LaserFest grants
  • Education kits and free materials available in a number of languages
  • Issues briefings with EU and USA legislators and policy makers
  • Photonics21 Student Innovation Awards, promoting research in photonics related to R&D with industrial impact, to be presented at SPIE Photonics Europe
  • National Lab Day, a project to bring hands-on, experiment-based learning to schools in the USA
  • Winter College at ICTP (Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics), providing students from developing nations the opportunity to work with top optics researchers
  • UNESCO ALOP (Active Learning in Optics and Photonics) program, a hands-on workshop for secondary and post-secondary physics teachers
  • Professional development programs on fundamental and advanced topics at SPIE events and online

While the challenges that face our world are bracing, it is good to know that we can live up to our responsibilities to educate the next generation of innovators. Your membership in SPIE, voice within the community, and volunteer spirit are potent means to advance our efforts.

Newport Spectra-Physics Research Excellence travel grant winners
SPIE President Ralph James with students who received Newport Spectra-Physics Research Excellence travel grants to attend SPIE Photonics West in San Francisco.

There are few greater contributions that we can proudly claim. Together, we can make a difference to create a brighter future for those in line behind us, and a grateful society appreciates all that you have and continue to do.

ALOP Programs

ALOP Constantine 2010
Université Mentouri de Constantine, Algeria
14-20 May 2010

ALOP Dakar 2010
Université Cheikh Anta Diop de Dakar, Senegal
21-25 June 2010

Write to us at spieprofessional@spie.org.  

DOI: 10.1117/2.4201004.01

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