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Highlights of the Siegman School in Barcelona

Mohammad Tollabi Mazraehno

In July I had the opportunity to attend The Siegman International School on Lasers, held jointly by The OSA Foundation and the Technical University of Catalonia. To be more precise, the school was hosted by The Institute of Photonic Sciences (ICFO) in Castelldefels, a beautiful town located 25 km away from Barcelona, which borders the coast of the Mediterranean Sea.

The school brought together more than 100 students, researchers and corporate executives from all over the world, who are working in the field of optics and photonics. It consisted of a five-day program, including presentations by renowned scientists and luminaries, poster sessions, lab tours, social events, and plenty of time for discussion, which, I believe, was a very rich experience from both technical as well as social aspect. The invited speakers included Prof. Mark Stockman from Georgia State University, US (who gave an in depth talk on Spasers), Prof. Philip Bucksbaum from Stanford University, US (who presented the recent advances in ultrafast x-ray free electron lasers), and Prof. Lene Vestergaard Hau from Harvard University, US (who gave an amazing talk on her research on slow light in Bose-Einstein condensates of ultra cold atoms), just to name a few.

From my point of view, the school was beneficial in a multitude of ways.  The talks were highly interactive and stimulating, generating plenty of interesting questions and instructive dialogue between the lecturers and students. The sessions covered a quite broad spectrum of topics ranging from nano-optics, nonlinear optics, application of femtosecond lasers, and characterization of ultrashort laser pulses, to ultrafast laser spectroscopy, optical frequency combs, slow light, and strong laser fields. The variety of talks, informal atmosphere to interact with the presenters, and sufficient time for discussion were highlights of the Siegman School.

In addition, we had also the opportunity to present our work during poster sessions, discuss with each other, and provide feedback to one another. The poster sessions were a highlight for me as I found the quality of the posters exceptionally high.  A few notable posters from my perspective highlighted work on the fabrication of mid-IR dual-wavelength pumped fiber lasers, attosecond pump-probe experiments on molecules, and applications of femtosecond spectroscopy. There were also two lab tours at ICFO. It should be noted that ICFO is a research center devoted to the science and technology of light with more than 50 labs. I was very impressed by their cutting edge research on ultrafast and medical optics.

Furthermore, the school provided a unique opportunity for both strengthening existing, and fostering new, scientific collaborations among the participants. It was a great opportunity for networking and connecting with peers and luminaries from around the world, in order to share ideas and exchange first-hand experience, which, I think, is helpful to initiate scientific collaborations.

Apart from the scientific aspects, the program was full of social events and exciting extra activities, such as exploring Barcelona, building boat at Olympic canal in Castelldefels, visiting the Món Sant Benet monastery, and BBQ on beach, which were all joyful and impressively well organized.

Overall, The Siegman School was an inspiring and motivating experience for me. I am so grateful that I could interact with these wonderful students and professors. To say that the School was fantastic would be an understatement. It all sounded wonderful and I am very glad for the participation. To all of you reading this and deal with lasers, either as the subject of your research or as a tool in your experiment, this is definitely one of the schools that you should attend.

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