Celebrating International Volunteer Day and Wrapping up my Year as OSA President

By Ursula Gibson, 2019 OSA President, Norwegian University of Science and Technology

The Optical Society (OSA) graciously thanks all our volunteers who dedicate countless time and effort to advancing OSA’s mission. Whether you are a part of the OSA leadership team, a publication reviewer, meeting committee, technical group leader, student leader or one of our OSA Ambassadors, your volunteerism is invaluable to the Society and helps foster a strong global optics and photonics community.

This note of gratitude should resonate with those whose contributions to OSA and other organizations are being acknowledged during International Volunteer Day on Thursday, 5 December.

To learn more about how you can engage with the Society, please visit OSA Get Involved. In the meantime, please read my reflections, first published in OSA’s OPN Magazine, on my year as president and experiences with OSA members and volunteers.

As I write this, I am in the home stretch of my year as OSA President. But association with OSA leadership is a lifelong privilege, and I look forward to joining a special group: the organization’s past presidents. Their efforts are an inspiration, as are the contributions of the other volunteers that shape the future of the organization.

To experience the shared progress of dedicated volunteers, members and staff through this past year has been an honor. In addition, travel, interaction with sister brother sibling societies across the globe, and seeing the OSA Foundation’s support of young scientists have been real sources of gratification. I will refrain from naming individuals (as the list is long) but wish to thank so many of you for reaching out, for putting up with my sense of humor, and for your positive and helpful attitudes.

When I look back on the year, in addition to learning of many notable optics and photonics accomplishments, the experiential themes that come to the fore are diversity, excellence, trust and agency. There are many axes of diversity—race, national origin, gender, LGBTQ+; experimental or theoretical focus, industrial or academic work; and, of course, the many subfields of optics and photonics. All of this should be cause for celebration rather than discrimination. I am proud of the ways in which OSA is pursuing a nuanced educational process to encourage just such a celebration at OSA events and headquarters. The constituents of this society are incredibly diverse, and OSA benefits commensurately.

Caption: Dr. Gibson addresses the first Subsea Optical Fiber Communications International School sponsored by the OSA Foundation and Google.

Credit: The Optical Society

OSA Publishing, the platform that hosts a wide range of OSA-owned and partner journals, has always been a repository for excellent optics- and photonics-based science. OSA has increased the diversity of authors served, as well as the discoverability and accessibility of these products through initiatives such as the introduction of OSA Continuum and the hosting of the Optical Society of Korea’s journal Current Optics and Photonics.

OSA’s high standards also engender trust—in an era when online publishing offerings of varying quality are proliferating. Rachel Botsman, a University of Oxford scholar who studies trust, has said that “the science behind the way trust works hasn’t changed, but … digital tools are changing what we expect.” OSA has a fine history of communicating effectively, and I expect this to continue as the digital environment continues to evolve.

The last theme is agency—defined as an “action or intervention producing a particular effect,” or “the capacity of individuals to act independently and to make their own free choices,” depending on the source you consult. OSA does a fine job of allowing its constituents to make a difference and to advance the field. I know that Stephen Fantone, the incoming OSA President, will move the society forward.

The “Optics in 2019” feature in this month’s issue of Optics & Photonics News offers 30 “optics vignettes” that cover more ground than I have, even with my extensive travels this year. To educate—and to stretch the imaginations of our colleagues and students by communicating our ideas—is a shared opportunity in which I hope we can all indulge in the coming year.


Posted: 5 December 2019 by Ursula Gibson, 2019 OSA President, Norwegian University of Science and Technology | with 0 comments

The views expressed by guest contributors to the Discover OSA Blog are not those endorsed by The Optical Society.


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