Guide to SPIE Student Chapters

Information and FAQs to help you form and sustain a Student Chapter

Part I: SPIE Student Chapter overview and how to form one

What is an SPIE Student Chapter?

SPIE Student Chapters* are groups based at educational institutions across the globe that play a critical role in fostering leaders in the fields of optics and photonics. Through engagement in an SPIE Student Chapter, students strengthen their leadership, communication, and networking skills for career advancement.

Collectively and individually, SPIE Student Chapter members play an instrumental role in moving the study of optics and photonics forward. Chapter members collaborate with colleagues, mentor younger students, connect with industry, and perform outreach in the community to pave the way for future advances in light-based technologies.

SPIE Student Chapter members have access to an ever-expanding network of scientists and engineers who can serve as resources, references, and collaborators. SPIE helps provide the structure and programs for chapters to ensure students lay the foundation for a successful career. 

Ready to get started? Submit an SPIE Student Chapter Application by 1 May and find all the details below.

Apply to be an SPIE Student Chapter

*Referred to as clubs in China

What is the purpose of an SPIE Student Chapter?

The purpose of the SPIE Student Chapter is to connect students interested in optics and photonics to a global network of scientists and engineers and prepare them for successful and diverse careers in the fields. A Student Chapter provides its members with the opportunity:

  • To prepare for and explore career opportunities in the optics and photonics industries through online resources as well as in-person offerings.
  • To network with students and professionals worldwide to discover novel approaches to research, outreach, career development, mentorship, and more.
  • To engage in lifelong learning by exploring research conducted at their and other universities, as well as at SPIE events and symposia.

At the discretion of the chapter student members, certain chapter activities and events shall be open for all students at the educational institution, especially when recruiting new members.

Through its organized efforts in study, research, discussion, and networking, the chapter shall promote the fields of optics and photonics, disseminate knowledge, and further the professional development of students.

How do I form an SPIE Student Chapter at my educational institution?

Educational institution requirements
The educational institution must have at least one of the following:

  • A graduate degree program or equivalent in physics, engineering, or other optics-related field (e.g., MSc in biomedical optics) with the ability to specialize in optics coursework.
  • A bachelor's program or equivalent program specific to optics (e.g., BSc in laser technology; excludes broad programs such as BSc in electrical engineering).
  • Certificate programs specific to optics (e.g., precision machining — optical fabrication).
  • Support for student optics research from professors specialized in the field.

Membership requirements

  • A potential chapter advisor: this individual must be a full-time faculty member at the educational institution and a current SPIE voting Member.
  • A minimum of 10 current SPIE Student Members affiliated with the educational institution.

Applicant requirements

Applicant(s) must be current SPIE Student Member(s) at the educational institution. Potential chapter advisors are not permitted to apply on behalf of students.


Even if the above educational institution, Membership, and applicant requirements are met, the formation of an SPIE Student Chapter is not guaranteed. There may be reasons as to why an SPIE Student Chapter may not be approved. These reasons often include a lack of previous Member engagement with SPIE and/or a lack of research specific to furthering optics and photonics technologies or applications. 

What are the application and approval processes for an SPIE Student Chapter?

SPIE Student Chapter Applications must be submitted each year by 1 May. 

Once submitted, applications are reviewed by the Early Career and Students Subcommittee and the Membership and Communities Committee. If approved, successful candidates are recommended to the Board of Directors for certification. Student Chapter applicant(s) are notified of official approval after board certification in September of the same year.

Please contact with questions.

Part II: How to sustain an SPIE Student Chapter

What does a chapter need to do to meet good-standing requirements?

SPIE Student Chapters must maintain a good-standing status to receive activity funding.  If a chapter does not meet all these requirements for three consecutive years, SPIE staff will contact the chapter to assess revitalization opportunities. If there are no opportunities or if the advisor and any members feel the need to end the chapter, the chapter will be recommended for decertification to the Board of Directors.

Good-standing requirements include:

  • Maintain a minimum of 10 current SPIE Student Members as members of the chapter.
  • Have a chapter advisor who is a full-time faculty member at the chapter’s educational institution and is also a current SPIE voting Member.
  • Hold annual elections for four officers: president, vice president, secretary, and treasurer.
  • Hold a minimum of three chapter meetings annually.
  • Submit an annual report and funding request for those seeking funding by 1 December annually.

Can we register our SPIE Student Members in one form?

If a Student Chapter has 10 or more students who are interested in joining or renewing their SPIE Memberships together, payment can be made by one credit card or bank wire. A bulk Membership form is available here. After completing the form, please send it by email to

How do we elect chapter officers, and what are their roles?

  • Officer elections are required to be held annually. The membership will vote, and those with the highest number of votes will be elected as respective officers.
  • Each chapter must have a president, vice president, secretary, and treasurer.
  • Each term of office is equal to one year of service, and a student may be re-elected to the same position for a second term.
  • No individual can serve in the same position for more than two years.
  • No individual should be elected to office if graduating before completing at least one-half year in office.
  • The newly elected officers will take office immediately after the election.
  • After elections have been held, the chapter must submit an online Officer Update Form.
  • Chapter officers’ duties:
    • The president supervises the SPIE Student Chapter’s affairs and activities. The president is responsible for public relations, publicity, and promotion of the chapter’s activities and assumes all other executive duties not otherwise delegated.
    • In the absence of the president, the vice president presides over meetings and performs all other functions of the president. The vice president’s primary responsibility will be program planning and execution.
    • The secretary keeps permanent records of all meetings and activities of the chapter. The secretary is also responsible for maintaining a current roster of members and for timely communications with SPIE headquarters.
    • The treasurer keeps records of all expenses and submits the annual funding request form to SPIE. The treasurer also ensures that an accounting of the previous year’s expenses is included in the annual report submitted to SPIE by 1 December.

What is required for annual reporting?

    Annual reports and annual funding grant requests are due every year on 1 December.

    The annual report will include:

    • Names of elected officers for the calendar year coming to a close.
    • List of current chapter members for the calendar year coming to a close.
    • Details of chapter activities since the last report.
    • Details of planned activities for the next year and the requested funding for them.
    • Financial information with receipts of expenses for the calendar year coming to a close.

    The Student Chapter Annual Report and Activity Grant Application will open on the SPIE application platform (SMApply) in October each year. One of the chapter officers will need to complete the annual report and activity grant funding request if applying for those.

    How do we fund our chapter activities?

    Chapters in good standing are eligible each year to apply for up to $1,000 in funding to conduct chapter activities via the SPIE Student Chapter Annual Report and Activity Grant Application.

    Student Chapters must provide a detailed activity proposal for the amount requested. Awarded funding will be determined based on the quality of the report and funding request.

    The activity grant application includes an additional $500 to support virtual or in-person speaker stipends and regional travel. Chapter members can arrange visits throughout the year directly without requiring pre-approval from SPIE. Chapters will manage speaker invitations and any payments or reimbursements directly.

    How do we know if our chapter qualifies for Student Chapter Awards?

    Chapters may self-nominate for the Presidential Award for Outstanding Student Chapter in their annual report.

    Is there travel assistance available for students to attend SPIE conferences?

    SPIE offers student conference support via a limited number of travel grants (airfare/lodging) and conference registration to SPIE Student Members who are planning to present their research at an SPIE conference.

    How do we use the SPIE logo?

    SPIE will provide each chapter with its own unique chapter logo after the chapter has been approved. These individual student chapter logos should be used to promote events that are run or sponsored by the chapter. More details about chapter identity can be found below.

    You may use the SPIE corporate logo to identify your chapter organization. Logos and usage guidelines can be found here.

    What is our chapter's official SPIE affiliation?

    SPIE Student Chapters do not have the authority to act for or in the name of SPIE and will not incur any financial obligations whatsoever in the name of SPIE. The Student Chapter agrees that SPIE will not be held responsible, directly or indirectly, for any claims or damages arising out of the chapter’s actions.

    The organization and operation of the Student Chapter will be in accordance with the constitution and bylaws of SPIE.

    SPIE Membership FAQ

    SPIE defines a student as someone engaged in full-time studies, who has not yet attained their terminal degree. Post-docs are not eligible for Student Membership and discounts but are encouraged to join SPIE as Early Career Members.

    SPIE accepts checks (in USD), money orders, purchase orders, and bankwire transfers. Download an individual Membership application for more information.

    Some chapters may prefer to conduct bulk Memberships instead of individual SPIE Membership renewals in order to pay for all Memberships at once using one payment method. This is an option for all chapters who wish to pay for 10 or more Memberships. In order to do this, please complete our bulk Membership renewal form. You may also include new Members on this form, so long as all fields are completed. Once completed, please send the form to We will review the information and send an invoice for payment.

    Yes, you can open a bank account to pay for SPIE Membership fees from one source, or manage funds.

    US chapters looking to open a bank account must complete and submit IRS Form SS-4 directly to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to receive their EIN. On an annual basis, US chapters need to file the 990-N tax form. This form is very short, but if not filed for three consecutive years, the organization will automatically lose its tax-exempt status.

    Chapter identity FAQ

    Individual chapter logos should be used to promote events that are run or sponsored by the chapter. Chapters can use their logo as they see fit to create their identity. If the chapter sponsors events that they did not organize and/or run, then the logo should only be used to identify the chapter as a sponsor. Sponsorship may involve monetary funding, donated supplies, or volunteering time.

    It depends. The GIF logos provided by SPIE are small in size (180x50px) but have transparent backgrounds, making them ideal for websites with colored backgrounds. The provided JPG logo is larger (500x160px) but has a white background. For other sizes, we recommend scaling the three color (RGB) EPS file and then saving it as a JPG or GIF.

    EPS files were created using Illustrator 11 (also known as Illustrator CS), while GIFs and JPGs were created with Photoshop 7.0.

    Generally, chapters are asked not to use the SPIE corporate logo except to specifically identify the organization. Events organized by SPIE Student Chapters require enormous amounts of time and dedication. These new logos were designed to increase the visibility of our chapters while giving proper credit where it is due.