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Why Light? Liz Dreyer, SPIE Future Leaders Committee Chair Answers

Liz Dreyer is an Early Career Professional Member of SPIE and chair of the SPIE Future Leaders Committee. Liz is also the next community member to answer our 'Why Light?' series. The series is leading up to the first International Day of Light, and asks SPIE Members to explain why they feel light is so important.

The inaugural International Day of Light – IDL – will take place 16 May 2018. IDL is a global initiative that provides an annual focal point for the continued appreciation of light. This day recognizes light and the vital role it plays in science, culture and art, education, and sustainable development.

On 16 May, join SPIE and communities worldwide by participating in activities that illustrate how the science and art of light improves all our lives. For more information and to plan your own event, visit

Meet SPIE Member Liz Dreyer,
Chair, SPIE Future Leaders Committee

What about light inspires you?

I am inspired by the diversity of applications of light. Truly, there are seemingly unlimited ways that optical and photonic technologies can be applied to improve the world. As an enabling technology, the general public doesn't always see its effects, but they're there! Light helps cheer people up in the winter through the use of broad-spectrum lamps (Seasonal-affectedness disorder (SAD) lamps). It is also used to cut and weld metals for manufacturing. We've only just begun to apply light to the problems in our society. I can't wait to see what new things come next!

How can light help overcome a current global challenge?

One application that I am excited about is using light to clean water. UV light can be used to kill bacteria in drinking water. A lot of sickness in places with poor infrastructure is due to contaminated drinking water (think Cholera or diarrhea). As UV light sources get cheaper and cheaper, they can be distributed to people to clean water.

I'm also excited about agro-photonics! As we learn more about how different wavelengths of light affect plant growth, we can grow food indoors much more effectively.

What do you do to share your passion for light?

Many things!

1. I engage in outreach activities. Every year, I partner with other optics people in my area and we run activities and demos at local events. My favorite is 'Back to the Bricks' in Flint, Michigan. It's actually a car show, but has an education pavilion. We have activities for kids of all ages to try and demonstrations about how light works. We even made it onto the local news last year with a UV fluorescence demo.

2. I talk to people. When people comment on how cool some optics-related thing is, I take the time to explain to them how it works. I try to share my excitement rather than be condescending about it. I also know a lot of optics tricks that are fun to use to impress people with at parties.

3. I share cool optics things online. On my personal Twitter and Instagram account, I often share cool moments related to light in everyday life or in my lab.


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