I write this letter after returning from trips in Europe and Mexico, including SPIE Europe Optics+Optoelectronics, held in Prague, Czech Republic, in April.
The European conference provided an open exchange for topical research information and included technical presentations on a wide variety of subjects such as metamaterials, photon counting applications, optical sensors, photonic crystal fibres, holography, and the new and emerging laser facilities in Europe.
In addition, an extended X-Ray programme in Prague had roughly 100 presentations on the state-of-the-art of the field. Two workshops were held, "Emerging European Laser Facilities: Beyond Petawatt", a forum on transnational collaborations, and "CESLAB: Challenges in Optics and Optoelectronics." The latter workshop served as a platform to discuss the potential effects of the Central European Synchrotron Laboratory (CESLAB) on the advances of Optics and Optoelectronics.
The technical sessions were very well attended by colleagues from Europe, the United States, and Japan. I had a great opportunity to meet many SPIE members and discuss with them the current scientific and industrial challenges in many countries.
I also had meetings with representatives from the Society for Optics CS, the PSP (Photonics Society of Poland), and from the editorial board of the new electronic journal "Photonics Letters of Poland." I have also been privileged to meet recently with dozens of student members of SPIE.
SPIE Europe organized a "Student Lunch with the Experts" at the conference in Prague, providing a unique networking experience for about 50 people. Earlier, in March, 80 students attended a fruitful one-day workshop at Centro de Investigaciones en Óptica in Leon, Mexico.
While in Mexico, I also visited SPIE Student Chapters at the University of Guadalajara and at University of Guanajuato in Salamanca, and I met the president and executive committee of Academia Mexicana de Optica (AMO) to discuss the current collaboration between SPIE and the AMO.
As a result of these visits I started thinking about the great benefits we receive as SPIE members.
Being an SPIE member was crucial for me as I developed my professional career, and I hope that you are taking advantage of all the activities, products, and possibilities that SPIE creates for us.
SPIE is an active scientific and professional society with a strong number of members working with an enabling technology that is important for the progress of other technologies.
The wide community we serve with professional development resources and valuable networking and leadership opportunities is even bigger, more than 10 times our core group of members.
I do not need to convince you about the benefits of being an SPIE member, but I would like to ask you to extend these benefits to your colleagues by showing them how SPIE membership can help them grow in their professional careers.
Valuable Interactions at SPIE Meetings
I recently had a discussion on the value of SPIE membership with Richard Youngworth, chair of the SPIE Membership Committee, and the previous chairman, David Wick, a member of the SPIE Board of Directors, and I want to share their comments.
Both said they were honored to be members of an organization that actively works to make the world a better place through optics and photonics. Rich said he had found that SPIE "is about a lot of small things that equal great networking and exchange of information when put together".
"Imagine working in our field without professional societies, and namely SPIE with its quick publication and attention to detail in running large meetings," he said. "The interaction that we get with our involvement really pushes forward the field and technology. It provides a marketplace for our goods. It provides a place to find people to hire or to find employment," he added.
Both Rich and David pointed to SPIE's student and early career professional programs and their corresponding membership categories that help young people start and advance their careers and which provide opportunities for mentorship, networking, and collaboration, even outside specific disciplines.
These members enjoy all the benefits of individual membership as well as new events and courses for them, with lower dues. Students, who can affiliate with any of the 136 SPIE Student Chapters in 20+ countries, have access to SPIE support such as, scholarships, support for travel to present at international conferences, the Visiting Lecturer Program, and grants for education outreach in the community. We also have a two-day leadership workshop for student members at SPIE Optics+Photonics in San Diego each summer and a new SPIE Early Career Achievement Award.
Professional Society Is a Stable Home
Rich and David emphasized the benefits of networking and staying up to date. For new and older members, this is even more crucial during a down period. "SPIE is a stable home for seasoned professionals in these very unstable times," David noted.
Besides, Rich added, "periods coming out of downturns in the economy tend to be highly competitive, and SPIE provides an edge to individuals and corporations who have remained active during the down time." That's one of the reasons why SPIE has also worked to help those who have lost jobs by providing a year extension of their membership.
Other specific benefits of membership in SPIE include one of the SPIE journals, free in online format; the SPIE Professional magazine you are reading now; and discounts in the SPIE Digital Library and on conference and course registrations.
"Supporting SPIE with my membership is a real honor knowing the effort SPIE puts into making the world a better place through optics and photonics," Rich said.
I agree with Rich and David and would like to hear your suggestions for better serving our community in this challenging time.
Laser Anniversary Celebration
In conclusion, I invite you to join SPIE in celebrating the golden anniversary of Theodore Maiman's working laser.
"Advancing the Laser: 50 Years and Into the Future" will recognize both laser legends and current leaders in laser technology around the world through publications and activities, including special events at SPIE Photonics West in January 2010.
Maiman demonstrated his ruby laser at Hughes Research Labs on 16 May 1960.