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From Outreach Work to Child Care, SPIE Grants Offer Opportunity

SPIE Women in Optics program has been enhancing and promoting the personal and professional growth of women in STEM since 1998. With its proactive focus on diversity, inclusivity, gender equity, SPIE leverages its extensive networks as well as its funding programs to support professionals and students alike. Two Society grant programs, currently open for application, offer critical opportunities to SPIE Members, their communities, and their families.

The SPIE Women in Optics Activity Grant

Networking lunches and diversity coffee-and-cake meetups; hosting high-profile visiting speakers; recruiting and building groups of students interested in optics-focused careers; running STEM-engagement workshops aimed at young girls; and creating symposiums at which students interact with women professionals from industry and academia: these are just a few of the myriad activities that recipients of the SPIE Women in Optics Activity Grant have implemented around the world. The program, now entering its third year, offers SPIE Student Chapters, affinity groups, and individuals working to increase opportunities for women in optics and photonics, grants of up to $500. Applications for 2019 close on 15 December 2018.

In India, the SPIE Techno India Student Chapter used their 2017 grant to hold quarterly student discussions with alumnae in the electronics and engineering fields who shared career advice; they also created a group which regulates educational outreach programs in rural Bengal, targeting girls-only schools.

In the US, the University of Arizona Student Chapter used their 2017 and 2018 grants specifically to support a networking symposium for students, providing them with the opportunity to meet with professional women in STEM-focused fields, discussing everything from event planning to leadership skills. “Applying for grants can sometimes be an exercise in creatively framing the activity to fit the grant,” notes Women in Optics Outreach Chair Emily Finan at the University of Arizona, “but the SPIE Women in Optics grant was a natural fit for the professional development events of our chapter. The funding significantly impacted our ability to grow our events, and with a straightforward application, applying for a second year was the clear choice.”

Further south, the SPIE Women in Optics group at National Institute of Astrophysics, Optics, and Electronics (INAOE) in Mexico, used their funding for multiple workshops and workshop materials–including science magazines, notebooks, and pens–as well as for a bespoke “Science in Heels” day-long event, which connected 65 high-school students with each other as well as with four professional women in STEM, who covered their experiences, challenges and successes in research, academia, industry, and quality and technical services. They also hosted 2017 SPIE President Glenn Boreman who stopped by for a visit. The chapter’s vision is to strengthen the group’s outreach to girls and young people in Mexico, notes Chapter President Liliana Villanueva Vergara. “We want to raise awareness of the importance of student chapters to promote, support, and develop their interest in STEM.” Their SPIE-funded Science in Heels event was such a success, that they started planning for the second one immediately.

INAOE outreach activities

The SPIE Photonics West Child Care Grant

New this year is the SPIE Photonics West Child Care Grant: As part of SPIE’s commitment to family-inclusive support, the society has created a grant to give parents equal opportunity to share their research at our largest annual meeting.

Apply for this grant by 1 January 2019. And to find out more about this new SPIE grant, please visit


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