Diversity & Inclusion Advocacy Recognition

About the Program

This recognition serves to acknowledge programs and accomplishments within our community that foster greater appreciation, advancement and celebration of diversity and inclusivity. Honorees should have a consistent record of support and leadership. Activities recognized may include community service, professional development, hiring practices or programs enhancing the understanding and inclusion of people of diverse cultures, backgrounds and experiences. Each winner will receive USD 1,500 to support their diversity efforts and travel funds to attend Frontiers in Optics + Laser Science (FiO + LS).

The review committee will consider the following criteria: 1. Visibility & Awareness; 2. Mentoring/Professional Development; 3. Celebration of Diversity; 4. Enhances Communication; 5. Innovation & Creativity; 6. Impact of Actions; 6. Replicability of Efforts.

Application Information

How to Apply

Applications for 2023 will open in spring of 2023.

Important Dates

The submitting author must opt-in to the competition during the regular paper submission process and follow all of the instructions provided on the submission site.

2022 Winners

Imrana Ashraf
Imrana Ashraf

Quaid-i-Azam University, Pakistan,

For her tireless work to promote optics and photonics careers in emerging economy nations, with a special emphasis on women, the transgender community and rural areas.


A devoted scientist and educator, Dr. Ashraf is committed to the ideals of diversity and inclusion. Through her work and personal leadership, she instills values of inclusivity in her students and colleagues alike. In addition to being an associate professor at Quaid-I-Azam University, Pakistan, Dr. Ashraf Senior Associate at The Abdus Salam Center for Theoretical Physics (ICTP) from 2019-2024, managing director of International Commission for Optics (ICO) in Pakistan and a senior member of OPTICA. 

In 2016, she established Active learning in Optics (ALO), a self-funded program under the umbrella of ICTP and QAU to bring physical sciences to girls’ high schools and colleges as well as remote areas of Pakistan. She and her team have regularly organized outreach activities in KPK, one of the worse affected insurgency regions. Imrana organizes workshops during the Preparatory School in Optics at the International Centre for Theoretical Physics (ICTP), for those in need of additional instruction benefiting hundreds of young scientists and students from South Asia, Africa, the Middle East, Latin America and Eastern Europe.  She also founded Pak-ICTP Alumni Society (PIAS) in 2021. The society aims to establish an alumni network to nurture research collaborations in Pakistan.

Imrana ensures and prioritizes a gender balance in both lecturers and participants in the international events she organizes including the International Workshop in Optics and Photonics (IWOP), in Marrakech in 2010 and in Islamabad in 2017. She served as a facilitator for UNESCO teacher-training workshop ALOP in Islamabad in connection with IYL in 2015. Working to create more leaders, Imrana’s research group within Pakistan engage in outreach activities, including at distant rural areas, that seek to promote inclusion and diversity. This has included events aimed at women and girls and members of the transgender community.

You can read more about her work:

Danuta Sampson
Danuta Sampson

University College London, United Kingdom,

For her work in raising public awareness of vision impairment and creating opportunities to spark interest in and foster exploration of STEM by girls and children from low socioeconomic ba


Dr. Danuta Sampson believes that we all have a role to play in creating and sustaining a better global community. Beyond her work as a biomedical optics researcher, she spent the last 15 years promoting equality, diversity, and inclusion in the community, exposing children and young professionals from underrepresented backgrounds to photonics, inspiring them and improving their sense of belonging in society worldwide.

Being the first in her family to graduate from university and being discouraged by many professors at university from pursuing physics helped shape Danuta’s priorities. She directs many of her community-focused efforts toward supporting people from disadvantaged backgrounds driven by these experiences.  Danuta initiated the Daphne Jackson Day, now an annual event at the University of Surrey (UK), to inspire everyone to find their passion for STEM and celebrate the legacy of Professor Jackson – the first female professor of Physics in the UK. She established "STEM portable libraries" with science-related books and outreach to support the education and STEM curiosity of children from disadvantaged backgrounds in Guildford, UK. She initiated and led the team to create the Women in STEM Challenge, an open-source game that helps educate school children about amazing women in STEM, their discoveries, and inventions.

Danuta also marries her work in visual science with working with children with vision impairment who often feel excluded by their peers due to their disability. In 2011 (during her PhD), she initiated a national contest in Poland to design optical toys for kids with significant visual impairment. It was an immense success, with 43 entries and toys donated to a local kindergarten to support children's development. Recently, with the support of her mentees, she finalized a school outreach program to teach about vision impairment and has made the materials she created available to everyone.

Learn more about Danuta Sampson’s work:

Edmund Optics
Edmund Optics

United States,

For their dedication and investment to establish and maintain region-specific initiatives, programs and policies around the world to create a more diverse and inclusive workplace.


Edmund Optics’ commitment to diversity recognizes the need to be intentional about building a truly inclusive environment that enables every person to contribute to their fullest potential.  Diverse and inclusive teams provide better solutions and services, which are critical to Edmund Optics’ vision. They are committed to becoming the most diverse, equitable, and inclusive workplace within the Optics and Photonics Industry and beyond. Edmund Optics pledges to ensure every voice is heard regardless of race, religion, global region, sex, sexual orientation, education, ability, age, seniority, or tenure. Every leader, every partner, and especially, every employee is relied upon to make Edmund Optics better.

In late 2019, Edmund Optic’s DEI initiative was formalized, creating their DEI Committee. In late 2020, the DEI Committee engaged experienced consultants to conduct a 3-phase process to assess EO through a DEI lens to establish a benchmark through surveys, leadership interviews, and virtual employee focus groups to develop impactful strategies and programs. What started as a US committee is now a global council. They are currently working with their expert consultant to support global DEI initiatives. Each office in their US, Europe, and Asia locations has its own DEI site lead working on region-specific initiatives.

Current initiatives and best practices include: Certifications of HR staff to help ensure recruitment and training systematically consider DEI. A Job Target Diversity Job Board which they use to take postings and disperse them to various sites which allows listings to reach candidates that they may never have gotten otherwise. This site also provides language reviews to ensure postings are not biased toward specific groups and suggests posting changes to guarantee the widest breadth of candidates. Edmund Optics also hold an Inclusive Leadership Manager Training for all senior leaders in the US. These leaders are put through an intensive 8-hour leadership session to challenge them to understand and help minimize barriers for all employees. Additional training has been developed using DEI training certification data and employee assessment data to work with all managers on unconscious bias, creating inclusive communities, and supervising, with DEI at the forefront.

Learn more about Edmund Optics’s work:

Past Recipients

Fujitsu Network Communications

United States

For their investment in programs and initiatives celebrating and advancing Black, LGBTQ+ and women employees in pursuit of greater inclusion and equality within their company and the wider community.

Fujitsu promotes multiple initiatives that collectively move beyond statements on diversity by championing unique programs that celebrate and advance diversity and inclusion within their company and the wider community. Examples include the Fujitsu Women’s Innovative Network (WIN) to support, empower, guide and inspire women and girls to achieve their full professional and personal potential and the Black Employee Inclusion and Networking Group (BEING) which empowers Black employees to embrace Black diversity and elevate Black culture. Finally, the 2021 Human Rights Campaign Index listed Fujitsu as one of the top employers for LGBTQIA+ equality.

“Fujitsu is honored to receive this award from Optica as a testament to our ongoing commitment to diversity and inclusion,” said Doug Moore, CEO, Fujitsu Network Communications, Inc. “At Fujitsu, we strive to build an inclusive culture where everyone can be completely themselves and achieve individual growth, regardless of their gender identity, sexual orientation, ethnicity, health and age.”


ICFO- The Institute of Photonic Sciences


For their deliberate and intentional work to integrate equitable, transparent and inclusive policies and programs throughout their institution’s hiring, mentoring and technical programming.

As a truly international research center, focused on optical and photonics sciences and its applications, ICFO strives to create and implement policies, programs and projects in their HR, education, innovation and outreach branches. Collectively, these policies and activities attract, empower and promote diversity as essential to enhancing innovation, creativity and excellence. Efforts include gender diversity activities such as the mentoring program for female researchers with young children, career development tools and participation in Optica’s governance and programs such as the International Optica Network of Students (IONS) featuring equality and gender sessions and an ongoing LGBTQIA+ program. Their efforts go beyond their institute with their participation in efforts including the Science by Women Program of the Women for Africa Foundation (FMxA) to promote African women’s leadership in scientific research and technology transfer.

Arti Agrawal
Arti Agrawal

University of Technology Sydney, Australia

For an unwavering dedication to promoting diversity and inclusion throughout the global optics and photonics community.

Dr. Agrawal works to create global awareness, empowerment, and support for women, the LGBTQIA+ community, and underdeveloped and underrepresented communities in STEM. In coordination with the OSA Membership Engagement & Development Council, she helped organize workshops in developing countries to successfully increase the number of female OSA Senior members. As an OSA Board Member and chair of the Women in OSA Rapid Action Committee examining gender issues across OSA,  Dr. Agrawal encouraged real change by establishing key target metrics for nine different areas across the Society. She was also a member of a committee that assessed professional conduct at Society events which resulted in the updated OSA Anti-harassment Policy & Code of Conduct.

Dr. Agrawal credits advocates Arundhati Katju and Menaka Guruswamy for inspiring her efforts and her work with the Gay Women’s Network in London leading her to launch a group for queer women of color. Through her work at OSA and as the Associate Vice President of Diversity for the IEEE Photonics Society, she has been involved in the establishment of programs intended to increase participation of women and minority groups in STEM across the globe including the Women in Photonics workshops and the Pride in Photonics workshop at CLEO. She is also a champion at her own institution working with the Women in Engineering & IT at the University of Technology Sydney.

Jennifer Burris
Jennifer Burris

Appalachian State University, United States

For facilitating systemic changes that have improved diversity and inclusion for her department, university and community.

Dr. Burris is the first woman Chair of the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Appalachian State University.  One of her first accomplishments was to create a student inclusiveness advisory committee that evolved into the Student Inclusive Excellence in STEM club working to actively promote diversity and inclusion across all STEM departments at the University. Located in western North Carolina, about 34% of the 20,000 students at Appalachian are first-generation college students, Dr. Burris has worked to enhance her own understanding of diversity and inclusion to be able to create and implement initiatives and professional development opportunities that would have long lasting change for the faculty, staff and students.

Dr. Burris has worked to both increase the number of underrepresented populations within the department of Physics and Astronomy, to create a supportive environment for students, and through securing funds for programmatic and systemic change. Donation funds have helped create a food pantry. Dr. Burris has facilitated required training in bias and inclusivity for faculty and staff. She has also demonstrated a similar commitment in hiring staff and faculty from underrepresented populations. She has procured funding for creating and promoting diversity and inclusion on campus including a new million dollar NSF ADVANCE grant to expand this work across all STEM departments with trainings of administrators, chairs, and faculty, expanded professional development and mentoring and improving work-life integration resources and advocacy across campus.  At a state level, she has been an advisory board member of the statewide BRIDGES Academic Leadership Program for Women and helped to reestablish the NC ACE Women’s Network to support all women in high education in North Carolina.

Department of Physics, St. Mary's College of Maryland
Department of Physics, St. Mary's College of Maryland

United States

For making long-term changes that improve diversity, equity and inclusion in its operations and culture.

Since hiring its first female faculty member in 2008, the Department of Physics at St. Mary’s College of Maryland achieved gender parity in 2019.  The Department’s dedication to diversity also extends to the student population whose gender ratio exceeds the U.S. national ratio in physics. This is due in part to the Emerging Scholars Program (ESP). With funding from an NSF S-STEM grant, the ESP identifies students from underrepresented groups in their first semester of physics offering enrichment along with mentoring and access to a supportive peer group. In the program’s first 3 years, 93% of ESP participants persisted to the second semester course, compared to 76% of non-ESP students.

As described in Physics Today, the St. Mary’s College of Maryland Department of Physics, proactively fosters a culture of inclusivity. Physics faculty work with other faculty from the College's Educational Studies program to introduce required diversity and inclusion workshops into first-year physics courses. As part of the APS Inclusion, Diversity & Equity Alliance, faculty have jointly enacted a policy to include work on inclusion, diversity and equity in every one of its courses. They reinforce this through start-of-the-semester values-affirmation exercises for students and share research demonstrating how they can help combat stereotype threat. They have revamped courses to ensure the contributions in the physics and astronomy of members of underrepresented groups are included in discussions and faculty members structure group work and continuously monitor it to promote inclusive behaviors and to stop behaviors that run counter to inclusion.

Jay Mathews
Jay Mathews

University of Dayton, United States

Dr. Mathews has a strong record of encouraging and fostering diversity in the field of optics and photonics. The committee recognizes his work to foster gender, racial, ethnic minority and socio-economic equality, as well as trying to provide opportunities for students who may be underserved in the optics community.

The committee was particularly impressed with the partnerships Dr. Mathews has created with Morehouse College, USA and Morgan State University, USA (both historically black colleges) and to St. Mary’s University, USA (a Hispanic serving institution). As the faculty advisor of the UD chapters of Society of Physics Students and Sigma Pi Sigma and within is his own research group Dr. Mathews demonstrates a commitment to mentoring women, Latinxs, African Americans and members of the LGBTQ community.

Learn more about Dr. Mathews' work, the Summer Research Program and other University of Dayton programs:

University of Dayton
UD Department of Physics
UD Department of Electro-Optics & Photonics 

National Institute of Standards & Technology

United States

The committee felt the work that NIST had done to realize their inclusivity core value “…to harness the diversity of people and ideas, both inside and outside of NIST…” is having significant results within the agency and is an excellent a model for other agencies, companies and universities.

Motivated by data showing that women and minorities compose decreasing fractions of personnel at higher promotional levels within NIST, a group of scientists and managers from across the agency developed Recommendations to Improve Equity in the Scientific and Engineering Promotions Process at NIST resulting in the creation of the Steering Group on Equity in Career Advancement. This Group evaluates unintended impacts to promotion and award opportunities for minority groups; unconscious or implicit biases within the agency; and disparities that can have a cumulative impact over the course of a career. The Group partnered with HR to build a curriculum of courses on inclusivity, implicit bias, trust, women’s success, and microaggression as well as add accountability for actions relating to inclusivity and equity to the performance plans of all senior leaders.

Read more About the work of the NIST Steering Group on Equity in Career Advancement.

Arlene Maclin
Arlene Maclin

Howard University, United States

Arlene is an educator, researcher, administrator and mentor. The committee recognizes her work in developing opportunities to expose underrepresented groups to STEM, specifically African Americans and women. She launched the first optical engineering program at a historically black university impacting hundreds of students and providing them a strong foundation for their education and future careers.

Frederique Vanholsbeeck
Frederique Vanholsbeeck

University of Auckland, New Zealand

Frederique was selected due to her advocacy for cultural and gender diversity throughout academia and is known for her passion of inclusivity as well as creating tangible outcomes. She established university-wide support for programs encouraging women to return to work after family leave as well as programs that support indigenous students.

Ling-An Wu
Ling-An Wu

Institute of Physics, CAS, China

Ling-An was selected for her dedication in empowering and supporting women and children in her region of China. Her work with the local OSA student chapter in developing programming for children of migrant workers as well as her focus on data collection to produce the first set of data on women in physics in China set her apart from the other applications.

Ling-An Wu
Okinawa Institute of Science & Technology (OIST)


The Okinawa Institute of Science & Technology known as OIST is recognized for their progressive policies in creating an inclusive environment. A few of the many items that stood out in their application are their development of a Vice President for Gender Equality on the university’s leadership team, an inclusive gender code of conduct, as well as their dedication in supporting dual career couples by creating an additional faculty or independent researcher position for a partner.

2022 Selection Committee

Katherine Calabro, Synopsis, Inc., USA
Amol Choudhary, Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi, India
Frank Kuo, Mettler Toledo Autochem Inc., USA
Arlene Smith, Avo Photonics Inc., USA
Lydia Sanmartí-Vila, ICFO, Spain