2021 Highlights

Our programs to foster and recognize the next generation of optics and photonics are made possible through generous support of our donors. You can make a contribution at optica.org/donate.

See highlights below from our:

The 2021 annual report will be available during the first quarter of 2022.

Scholarships & Travel Grants

  • We launched the Amplify Scholarship for Black scientists, which will recognize its first 10 recipients with US$7,500 scholarships in early 2022. This program was developed by the Optica Ambassadors in response to the lack of Black representation in optics and photonics and was generously supported by founding contributors Thorlabs and Meta as well as Federico Capasso, Harvard University; Corning Incorporated; Valentin Gapontsev and IPG Photonics Corporation; Eric Mazur, Harvard University; OFS Laboratories; Synopsys Incorporated; JA Woollam Incorporated and others.
  • The Boris P. Stoicheff Memorial Scholarship was awarded to Murat Tessenov, CREOL, University of Central Florida.
  • The Corning Women in Optical Communications Scholarships recipients are Deesha Shah, Purdue University; Jingyi Yang, University of California, Irvine; Elisaveta Yelistratova, Bauman Moscow State Technical University.
  • The Corning Women in Optical Communications Travel Grants supported 42 waived registrations to OFC.
  • The Harvey M. Pollicove Memorial Scholarship was awarded to Tyler Peterson, University of Arizona.
  • The Incubic/Milton Chang Travel Grants supported 55 waived registrations to CLEO and FiO+LS.
  • The Robert S. Hilbert Memorial Student Travel Grant supported 13 waived registrations to the Design & Fabrication Congress.
  • The Jean Bennett Memorial Student Travel Grant supported 34 waived registrations to FiO+LS specifically for student members from emerging economies.
  • We also piloted Optica Women Scholars with the University of Arizona to recognize two students at the James C. Wyant College of Optical Sciences: Madeline Bergay and Sarina Grijalva. This new program will officially launch a call for applications in 2022 and begin recognizing 20 women worldwide with US$10,000 scholarships each over the next ten years (200 total by year-end 2031). The Optica Women Scholars program is supported by 10, US$100,000 donations from Janet Fender (1997 Optica President) and John L. Otten III; Elizabeth Rogan, CEO, Optica; II-VI Incorporated; Corning Incorporated; Google LLC; Innolight; Intel; Meta; Neophotonics Corporation; and Source Photonics.


  • The Milton and Rosalind Chang Pivoting Fellowship was awarded to Madison Rilling, Optonique, for her commitment to pivot her career and focus on bringing industry and government together to address important challenges, including climate change and healthcare.
  • The Thomas F. Deutsch Fellowship in Biomedical Optics was awarded to Danielle Harper, Wellman Center for Photomedicine, for her plans to develop a state-of-the-art polarization sensitive optical coherence tomography imaging system and bring this technology directly into the operating theater to help surgeons identify nerves.

Prizes & Competitions

The following prizes are associated with OFC, the premier event for telecom and data center optics:

The following prizes are associated with CLEO, the world’s premier international forum to learn about innovative advances, research and new technologies from the laser science industry:

NextGen Institute

  • The 2021 Siegman International School on Lasers was held as a virtual "All Stars" program on 19-23 July. Top-rated presenters from previous schools were invited to give online presentations and lead problem-based discussion groups. The event culminated in a final plenary from 2018 Nobel Laureate Donna Strickland. In total, 226 participants from 47 countries attended the virtual experience.
  • On 5-9 April, we hosted the Innovation School virtually for a second year. There were 40 participants from 12 countries, including attendees, mentors, speakers, and judges. The program, a week of product development and customer/market research, resulted in 7 unique pitches. The winning concept was Sunshinelance, a tracker for sun exposure and potential cancer risks for outdoor workers.

In 2022, the NextGen Institute's suite of schools and accelerators will return to in-person formats. Learn more about each of the programs at optica.org/nextgen.

Annual Fund Programs

The annual fund is an allocation from the foundation's reserves approved by the board of directors that supports a variety of programs:

  • The Optica Ambassador Program is a marquee opportunity supported by the foundation's annual fund. As emerging leaders in the optics and photonics community, Ambassadors provide career advice, technical knowledge, and mentorship with students and early-career professionals in the field by supporting professional development events at meetings and engaging with their communities. We received 55 applications and selected ten to participate in the 2021 class. 
  • Optica Student Chapters receive grants for unique programs focused on professional development, education outreach, and diversity & inclusion.
  • ​During the pandemic, many students lost access to essential tools and resources at their universities. In partnership with VPIphotonics and Zemax, we provided simulation and design software to students residing in emerging economies. 58 students from 17 countries were granted one-year licenses based on their use proposals.
  • The Diversity and Inclusion Advocacy Recognition honors individuals and organizations significantly impacting areas of diversity and inclusion. The Optica Foundation funded the prize and promotion. This year, Fujitsu Network Communications and ICFO were recognized.
  • 64 Chapters received professional Zoom accounts from the foundation in 2021. Over the last year, over 1200 meetings have taken place, impacting 6,100 students. Chapters engaged in over 30,000 hours of content with the largest contingent of attendees from India, Ukraine, Mexico, Ghana, and Russia.

The full list of annual fund programs supported in 2021 is available at optica.org/annualfund.


The Optica Foundation manages the endowments for the society's awards and medals. To learn more about those recognized in 2020, visit optica.org/awards.