The past week or so has been busier and more exhausting than usual (with a little girl who is suddenly having trouble getting to sleep), so I missed the blog last week. My daughter’s ability to sit up and stand easily is causing her all sorts of trouble. Whenever we lay her down in her crib, she thinks she should immediately stand up and walk around her crib (still holding onto the side). She is, of course, exhausted and needs a nap but can not quite figure out that she needs to lie back down in order to sleep. Poor kid (and poor parents!).
Having found some time to myself again after a few long weeks, I decided to do some more exploring on the Frontiers in Optics website. While the full conference program will not be up for some time, there are tons of exciting invited speakers and special symposia listed for the conference. I am going to have a hard time deciding what things to go to with so much going on – one of the big challenges of the big conferences with so many concurrent sessions.
Two of the special symposia struck me as being really interesting and related: The Future of Optics: A Perspective at Emil Wolf’s 90th Birthday and the Laser Science Symposium on Undergraduate Research.
The Future of Optics Symposium is going to address the future of optics in the areas where Emil Wolf contributed the most – Inverse Problems, Coherence and Quantum Optics, Physical Optics, and Optics at the University of Rochester.
I am especially interested to hear Anthony Devaney’s talk about the Future of Inverse Problems since this relates directly to my own research in Optical Diffraction Tomography. While there are a lot of exciting areas of research dealing with new technologies in lasers, fabrication, and nanotechnology, I am always fascinated by how much there is left to learn and investigate in the very fundamental problems of optical scattering and propagation. Being able to measure the intensity profile of light after it has passed through an object and then reconstruct that object allows us to image objects that standard microscopes cannot see. And, of course, as we learn to make smaller and more complicated structures, we need ways to measure them.
This symposium seems like a wonderful way to honor a great scientist and get the younger generation excited about the exciting research that is coming up in these fields. And, speaking of the younger generation, there is another special symposium just for them: The Symposium on Undergraduate Research.
I only found out about this symposium a couple of years ago, though it has been going on for 12 years now. This is an opportunity for undergraduates to come and be involved in a large and vibrant conference. If you are an undergraduate (or have undergraduates in your lab), you should definitely look into this.
The organizer is Hal Metcalf from Stony Brook University and the deadlines for submission are at the end of the summer (instead of May) to accommodate undergraduates who usually do the bulk of their research in the summer. The symposium consists of oral presentations and post talks and the quality is really amazing – many of these presentations could easily have been given in the main conference sessions and no one would have thought they were undergraduates.
I had three students who worked with me present at this symposium in 2010 and they could not stop raving about what a wonderful experience it was. Two of my students had not planned on pursuing optics after graduation, but were so excited by the experience that one is now a graduate student in optics and the other is planning on applying for optics programs this fall.
I feel like a walking advertisement for this symposium, but I just think it is such a fantastic opportunity for undergraduates to be introduced to the vibrant optics research community. Especially for students in smaller departments who do not normally have access to these sorts of opportunities. And, of course, it is a great place for graduate advisors to recruit really phenomenal future graduate students.
Being very education and student-oriented, I think it is really cool that in addition to talking about all the current (and exciting!) research, part of Frontiers in Optics is devoted to looking toward the future of research – both in specific topics and in supporting and engaging the future scientists who will be the ones to engage in these topics.