Opening New Doors

By Ian Walmsley

I’m delighted and honored to take up the role of OSA President. I know that I follow many illustrious holders of this office, not least my immediate predecessor, Eric Mazur (Harvard University, USA), who has left his mark on the governance, diversity and global character of The Optical Society. I thank him for his service and estimable contributions to the organization.

It never ceases to amaze me how ubiquitous light is in both science and technology. Its exceptional propensities for acquiring and transmitting information, for sensing and for energy transfer continue to open new doors and new opportunities.

The 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics is a case in point, exemplifying how optics remains at the forefront of scientific discovery. The prize went to three of the people who conceived and executed the LIGO project, Rainer Weiss, Kip Thorne and Barry Barish, after that project made the first observation of gravitational waves, confirming a prediction of Einstein’s general theory of relativity.

This remarkable result was made possible by a device that’s more than a century old, the Michelson interferometer, itself conceived by the first Physics Nobelist from the United States, Albert Michelson. The ability of light to measure minute changes in path length caused by changes in spacetime was enhanced in the new design using “recycling” mirrors. Future versions will make further improvements by means of quantum light injected into one of the device ports, yielding an utterly extraordinary sensitivity to phase shifts. Remarkably, light continues to deliver enabling technology and fundamental discovery, as it has been doing for centuries.

As optical science, technology and engineering assume increasing importance, OSA’s mission—to promote the generation, application and archiving of knowledge in optics and photonics, and to disseminate this knowledge worldwide—is of increasing relevance. As you may know, OSA has formulated a strategic plan to specify goals and actions that will assist it in fulfilling that mission. Each of the society’s program areas—Publications, Meetings, Membership, Industry and Public Policy—has set new objectives that will dramatically change the face of each program. Achieving them will advance OSA as a whole.

This year, we will look to the future of OSA beyond the next five years. What should a professional society look like, and what should it be doing in the next 10 or 20 years? How will social networks affect the nature of membership? What will our future members expect of OSA? How will the drive to open science change the way we undertake publishing? How will digital technologies change our meetings and knowledge exchange? How will we continue to serve and build bridges between the various communities that form the society, from advanced industry applications to cutting-edge science research?

In the coming year I’ll be seeking your input to unlocking some of the answers to these questions and others. Meanwhile, may I wish you a happy new year, and a productive and exciting 2018!
* Previously posted on OSA Careers


Posted: 1 January 2018 by Ian Walmsley | with 0 comments

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