AIO Co-Founder and 2016 Program Chair, Dr Jess V. Ford, shares his thoughts on the AIO meeting.

By Arlene Smith, Ph.D.

AIO Co-Founder and 2016 Program Chair, Dr Jess V. Ford, shares his thoughts on the AIO meeting.
- Tell us a little about yourself. What is your background and how did you arrive at your current role?
I did my Ph.D. in ultrafast laser chemistry & cluster science.  I discovered that while very interesting I wanted to work on real world problems and find solutions with horizons that could be realized in a shorter time frame.  I moved to a post-doc at Oak Ridge national Lab studying polymer blended materials, still using laser analysis.  That started my career down the industrial path.  Leveraging the polymer experience I moved to a custom coatings start-up and developed ~25 coating solutions before the company folded in 2001 when the tech bubble burst.  I then moved to a small company specializing in process monitoring.  They build sample handling & conditioning systems coupled with almost any sensor needed to perform the job.  Their primary sensor technologies were electrochemical and photometric analysis.  Photometric and spectroscopic analysis is where I work today.  I moved from the small company to the oil patch in 2008.  My role with my current employer focuses on optics and photonics sensors for in-situ fluid analysis in oil wells.  In addition, I have taken on project management responsibilities and oversee multi-disciplinary internal and external teams that bring the sensors from the white board to the real world.  I have discovered that in many instances the science is the easy part, engineering for the bottom of an oil well is the most difficult task.
- How did you first get involved in AIO? 
I was a founding member of the AIO family.  Sean Christian started the conference and shanghaied me into helping him the first year as a program chair.  The next year he was so focused on business he passed the conference off to me, and I have been involved ever since.  The last two years as I have backed out of the leadership roles it is amazing to see the excitement of the people taking over and realize that we may have actually built something long lasting.
- What do you think makes AIO meeting a remarkable meeting?
AIO was and still is important to me because it focuses on the industrial scientist and engineer.  They typically are not working on the leading edge of science, but they are working at the leading edge of application.  Taking a optics or photonics solution from the concept to the marketplace has a very unique set of challenges and requires a different mindset to succeed.  Developing the idea is a critical step, don’t get me wrong, but the real blood, sweat and tears is taking that idea out of the lab and making the thing work for everyone.  AIO celebrates these efforts and provides a venue where those of us doing that work get to interact with one another, share our stories, tips, tricks, and network of contacts.  In many ways AIO is a family of diverse backgrounds and connected by ideas and common experiences.
AIO will stretch your mind about photonics applications and help you develop a network of friends that will help you overcome any hurdle in taking your technology from the lab bench to the marketplace.  We also have the best after conference parties and discussions.
- What is your favorite type of AIO Talk/Session?
I personally like the sessions with a couple of introductory talks and then a panel discussion.  This was initially something we did to fill time in the first couple of years, but we discovered it added a unique flavor to the conference and really allowed the attendees to engage with one another.  When you circle the chairs and everyone is facing one another it is clear we have moved from the “telling” of information to the discussion of information.  Once a panel starts who knows when it will end (we have been known to sit in that circle for a couple hours examining the topic).  The other AIO mainstay is the Q&A period for each presentation.  We highlight that as a critical element of the talks in each session and really insure that there is discussion on every paper.


Posted: 14 July 2016 by Arlene Smith, Ph.D. | with 0 comments

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