Each year SPIE student members spend thousands of hours organizing events for the benefit of others. Even in the age of instant communication among the perpetually connected, the scientific conference remains a valuable and time-honored tradition in the academic life of a researcher.
Amidst all the other pressures of research, classes, and personal lives, student-organized conferences dot the globe. These local conferences serve an important purpose: not all students have the funding or time to travel to far-off locations to present the results of their labor, and yet the conference presentation experience is vital to the professional future of a researcher.
This year SPIE will assist more of these regionally focused student events through the Collaborative Conference Grant. Designed to encourage opportunities for professional development, networking, and collaboration between student chapters, this grant will be awarded quarterly, up to $2000, to fund an event that embodies these same qualities. The grant is specifically for events with student development opportunities, and organized by two or more SPIE student chapters.
While the idea of planning workshops and conferences is not new to student chapters, the grant represents a significant opportunity for chapters to expand their offerings or plan something new on a larger scale. This grant is inspired by the efforts of several student chapters who have demonstrated their willingness to create outstanding events in their regions.
In 2005 the Kent State University Student Chapter (Kent, OH) organized "Outreach Day," an event held just before the Great Lakes Regional Conference in collaboration with the University of Notre Dame (Notre Dame, IN) and University of Dayton (Dayton, OH) student chapters. Outreach Day was meant to break away from normal outreach activities.
"Why not travel to schools and give demonstrations? Why not go together with other chapters? Why not set a reward for those who spent much time and energy [on this event]?" asks Mingxia Gu, former Kent State Chapter president.
From its humble beginnings as a half-day workshop, the International Young Scientists Conference "Problems of Optics and High Technology Materials" hosted by Taras Shevchenko National University Chapter (Kyiv, Ukraine) is now in its seventh year and comprises four days of lectures, exhibits, and poster sessions.
For groups willing to challenge themselves, a positive attitude and lots of advance planning can significantly pay off. Students will build people management, budgeting, and organization skills, while highlighting the significance of their work in the community.
From fledging workshops to multi-day conferences, most are not feasible without outside funding. Viktor Lysiuk, from the Taras Shevchenko Student Chapter, notes that $2000 can cover expenses such as "publishing conference abstracts, buying badges, printing conference programs, [and organizing] coffee breaks," while the remainder can be used to support student travel.
In other regions, however, $2000 may not go as far. The Collaborative Conference Grant, however, can provide the seed money necessary to leverage other funding agencies to support the event. It even provides a great way to test a plan that, if proven successful with this grant, can later be submitted for the SPIE Institutional Grants awarded each year.
"Now more chapter members will have the opportunity to network with experts and students from their region than before," says Dirk Fabian, SPIE Student Services lead. He encourages chapters to pool resources and build something larger than they could accomplish by themselves.
"It is an opportunity to build something lasting, not only the event, but the professional relationships that are the backbone of science," says Fabian. "There are ways to distinguish yourself in science?then there are ways to distinguish yourself and contribute back to your science."
What You Need to Know
The new $2000 Collaborative Conference Grant is given out quarterly for events created and run by SPIE student chapters, provided they meet the following criteria:
The event must be organized by at least two SPIE student chapters.There need to be at least 30 attendees.Student professional development opportunities need to be included.Before applying, develop a conference plan including purpose, goals, and how students will benefit.Have a conference budget prepared when applying.Get written agreements from collaborating partners.Applications are due each quarter (first of January, April, July, and October). Grant recipients will be announced two weeks after the deadline.
Jason Hamman, SPIE Student Activities Coordinator