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KOALA Conference 2013 - reaching out beyond borders

Written by Tomonori Hu, University of Sydney SPIE student chapter president

Since 2008 the Australian optics students have been annually holding the KOALA conference (Conference on Optics, Atoms and Laser Applications), organised by students for students. The conference aimed to bring together students of all levels across this vast land, to facilitate discussion and develop relationships between future Australian scientists. The conference typically involves technical sessions, invited speakers and social events for networking.

From the 24-29th of November 2013 the KOALA conference was hosted by the University of Sydney SPIE Chapter. New goals were set in 2013 with focus on involving more international student presence and invited speakers, and also to expand students' career options by hosting a session concentrating on entrepreneurship. In order to achieve these goals the University of Sydney chapter worked closely with SPIE and was granted the Federation of Optics College and University Students (FOCUS) grant in late 2013. This not only aided in funding and professional advice, but our contacts at SPIE allowed the news for KOALA to be spread on a global scale.

As a result, a record number of 95 attendees registered for the conference from 19 institutions from as far as Malaysia, Scotland, Lithuania and the United States. The technical presentations ranged from biophotonics, atom optics, telecommunication, quantum optics, solar, and laser sensing. The program for the week was packed with action including a reception night, four invited speakers, a public lecture at the university, a social trivia night, poster night, the entrepreneurship seminar, and a conference cruise dinner.

Of particular worthy mention was the SPIE night, which involved a presentation by our partner SPIE chapters from Swinburne (Australia) and Otago (New Zealand) about the benefits of being an SPIE chapter and to encourage more Australian/New Zealand institutions to create their own chapters. This was then followed by a social event of trivia hosted by the university's own international comedian. The entrepreneurship seminar was also a success and involved moving to a nearby technology incubator - ATP Innovations. A presentation and discussion was hosted by Hamish Hawthorn (CEO, ATP Innovations) which involved intellectual property, paths to commercialisation and a panel interview of some local university technology based start-up companies.

The 2013 KOALA conference was an extreme success - more details can be found on our website: http://koala-conference.com/. This tradition will continue in 2014 at the University of Adelaide (Australia). We are looking foward to seeing the growth of this student conference! We would like to acknowledge the kind support of our major conference sponsor, SPIE, along with all other sponsors that made this event possible.