President's Letter

Do you belong to the SPIE family?

01 January 2014

Do you belong to SPIE? I do not mean, are you just a dues-paying member of SPIE. But are you a member of the SPIE family?

Are you a researcher or educator, an engineer or entrepreneur who is driven by the desire to understand the nature of light and how to use or apply that nature to make the world a better place to live?

Do you add to our community’s body of knowledge by contributing to conferences, submitting articles for proceedings or journals, or teaching a course? Do you benefit from participating in our conferences or exhibits or courses?

Do you support our education and outreach programs such as providing student travel grants and scholarships, partially funding the ICTP Winter College on Optics, or advocating for the optics and photonics profession with your elected representatives?

If you answer yes to any of these questions, then you belong to SPIE. You are a member of the family.

And I would like to challenge you to do more, to increase your participation.

SPIE family members volunteer

If you have a favorite conference, then consider volunteering to serve on the organizing committee. Or consider serving on a governance committee. Help increase the knowledge of our community by participating in conferences, submitting your best papers to our journals, or by developing a short course or Field Guide.

Help increase the reach of our educational activities. Judge a local science fair, give a lecture at an SPIE Student Chapter, or visit a middle school and talk about your career. And of course, continue renewing your membership.

I am writing this letter in October 2013 while in Rochester, NY, attending SPIE Optifab. With 166 exhibitors, the organizers proudly declared it as North America’s largest display of optical manufacturing and testing technology and equipment. Three weeks earlier, I was in Dresden attending SPIE Remote Sensing, the largest SPIE meeting dedicated to remote sensing, and the SPIE Security + Defence conference and exhibit

Next, I traveled to Jena and Mainz (Germany) to visit SPIE Corporate Members JENOPTIK, Fraunhofer IOF, Carl Zeiss SMS, and SCHOTT. At Zeiss SMS, we talked about how important the SPIE Photomask conference is to that community.

Connections throughout the world

While SPIE runs a broad range of technical events each year, most of us only attend one – “our” meeting. Just like a large extended family, SPIE has many technical communities. To the photomask community, SPIE Photomask is their most important meeting. To the biophotonics community, SPIE BiOS is most important.

Each SPIE technical community has its own ‘most important’ event: Advanced Lithography; Medical Imaging; Astronomy; Optics + Photonics; and Defense, Security, and Sensing; etc.

In recognition of this fact, we believe that each technical community should have its own journal. For this reason, we have recently announced three new journals covering astronomy, medical imaging, and neurophotonics. (Read more about the new journals.)

From 2005 to 2011, I was privileged to be the SPIE vice president to the International Commission for Optics (ICO). My duties on the ICO Bureau took me around the world. On those travels, I noted that from ancient Greece to medieval Europe, and from Accra, Ghana, to online, all communities share the common need of a central marketplace for goods, services, and information.

Just as Rome would not have been the same without its Forum or Prague without its Old Town Square, the optics and photonics community would not be the same without SPIE events, publications, and services.

SPIE is where the global optics community comes to connect, communicate, and conduct commerce in products and ideas. SPIE is the center of our community.

I look forward to seeing many of you at Photonics West – the optics community’s single largest technical conference and exhibit. Much more information about Photonics West can be found inside this issue of SPIE Professional.


As SPIE President-Elect, I ran the annual strategic planning in 2013.

Central to any strategic plan is defining our ‘core.’ Why does SPIE exist? What motivates our members to dedicate their creative time, talents, and treasure? What would be lost if SPIE ceased to exist?

To me the answers are simple. SPIE is more than a Society, more than staff and buildings in the US and UK.

SPIE is a community. SPIE is my family.

I have been thinking about these concepts since before 1990 when I wrote an opinion piece for OE Reports about how SPIE is an international community sharing the common bond of optics and serving the needs of diverse technical communities.

I frequently talk to members who say that of all the professional meetings they go to, the SPIE conference they attend for their “community” is the most important.

And as I travel the world representing SPIE, I am struck by the fundamental need of human communities to have a central gathering place to connect, communicate, and conduct commerce.

SPIE fulfills that need in the optics community.

H. Philip Stahl
2014 SPIE President

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