An Opportunity I'll Never Forget

By Nicholas Kochan, University of Rochester, USA

Traveling to Centro de Investigaciones en Optica (CIO) in Leon, Guanajuato for the 2017 Siegman School on Lasers this August was a great experience.  There were about 70 of us from 20+ countries, and 11 luminaries sharing with us a wide range of applications and phenomena of lasers.  I arrived with a need to apply lasers for measurement and I left with new views on lasers, great experiences, and many friends.

We started the school with Dr. Luis Orozco’s lecture on nanofiber optics, looking at both quantum and classical perspectives.  I remember distinctly his point that polarization has a component in a third dimension.  I think most of us had not thought of this idea in experimental optics because we think only of practically dealing with planar waves.  But on the level he cares about in sensing or manipulating single atoms, these perspectives matter.  This simple (what I would call fundamental) point is something I would have not considered before attending the school.

This widening of view continued through the week.  I learned the state of the art in biological, photonic, and space sensing and communications using lasers.  And we covered current topics such as structured light beams, frequency combs on a chip, chirped pulses, and optical tweezers.  Some lecturers gave insight behind the community impact of their work (especially important in medicine), as well as turning lasers into a business – from the lab to a final industrial product.  And we got to hear from Jean-luc Dumont, who helped us to dissect our thinking about technical presentations and paper writing to clearly convey our (often complicated) ideas in a meaningful way.  I gained great appreciation for how multifaceted the lasers field really is, and I was inspired to take new perspectives on light.

The local students at the CIO were all very helpful in showing us around and making us feel welcome.  It was great to see central Mexico, which we learned to be one of the first colonial settlement areas in the country traditionally known for its mining and shoemaking.  I really enjoyed the strong sense of community I felt in the city.

Around technical topics, we also made friends and had fun.  Highlights included a fierce shoe-painting competition involving students and lecturers, the dancing at the school dinner, and winding (albeit slightly lost at times) through the city of Guanajuato on a brief visit.  Not only did I meet peers whom I will continue to see at conferences in the future, but I also made great friends, exchanged advice, and learned about different perspectives from many corners of the world.  I left the conference with new tools as well as great friends.

Thanks, CIO, for warmly hosting the school this year.  I very much enjoyed the school and will take great memories.  And also many thanks for the OSA Foundation, without whose support I could not make it to the school.  I’m excited to apply what I learned at the school and pay forward my experiences for others in the future.




Posted: 13 September 2017 by Nicholas Kochan, University of Rochester, USA | with 0 comments

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