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09 December 2016

#FacesofPhotonics: Inspired

Among the #FacesofPhotonics: Student Leadership
Workshop participants at SPIE Optics + Photonics
Guest blogger: Emily Power is a Winter Quarter graduate in communications from Western Washington University, and most recently social media intern for SPIE, the international society for optics and photonics. She is blogging on responses to the SPIE #FacesofPhotonics campaign, to share the stories of SPIE students around the globe.

It is a commonly known fact: students are the future. Around the world, students with ideas, opinions, and innovative minds are preparing for their opportunities to conceptualize and create the next advances for the ever-changing world in which we live.

In the field of optics and photonics, students are making a difference even now, sharing their work and building their networks through conferences such as SPIE Photonics West, coming up next month in San Francisco.

The SPIE campaign #FacesofPhotonics was developed as a showcase across social media to connect students from SPIE Student Chapters around the world, highlighting similarities, celebrating differences, and fostering a space for conversation and community to thrive. Students were invited to share their perspectives and successes via SPIE’s social media channels.

The results were amazing, and we’ll be sharing some excerpts on these pages over the next few weeks.

This week, we feature students who described how they are inspired by their field.


Michael J. Williams
Michael J. Williams is a PhD student at Delaware State University, studying optics, and earned his master’s degree in material science from Fisk University and bachelor of science at Morehouse College.

In #FacesofPhotonics, he tells of a moment during SPIE Optics + Photonics 2016 when he was inspired by SPIE CEO Eugene Arthurs.

“At a town hall meeting held during the conference, there was a question asked by a professor of how optics and photonics awareness can be spread to third-world countries for their benefit,” Michael wrote. “Dr. Arthurs responded by saying that before we even think about going to other countries, we need to reach the inner-city black and Latino communities in our cities first.

“That encouraged me so much because quite honestly, I was the only born-and-raised black American at the event, and I come from the inner-city where people have written those kids off as being too unintelligent or saying they do not have the propensity to learn complex science.

Laura Tobin
“I thanked Dr. Arthurs personally for redirecting the need for optics awareness to poor and low-income communities who may have the desire and intrinsic skill to create colorful innovation for a different point of view. They just need consistent encouragement and the opportunity.”

Laura Tobin is a postgraduate student at University College Dublin. She pursues her interests in optics and renewable energy by studying electrical and electronic engineering.

Laura said she found inspiration at SPIE Optics + Photonics 2010, when “I attended my first outreach workshop, ‘Optics Magic’ by Judy Donnelly and Nancy Magnani. This workshop inspired and motivated me to start doing #scicomm and outreach. I honestly don’t think I would have achieved or gone for half the things that I have done if I hadn’t attended that conference.”

Matt Posner
Born and raised in France, Matt Posner is a postgraduate student studying optoelectronics at the University of Southampton. He is currently president of his university’s SPIE Student Chapter. Matt wrote about the inspiration he found at Optics + Photonics in 2016, centered on connections he made there: “I had really rich and inspiring discussions with the people that came to see our experiments, and made lots of contacts with people from all around the world whom passionate about photonics.”

For full stories and more inspiration, follow @SPIEphotonics on Instagram, and look for the #FacesofPhotonics tag.