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My Summer Trip to India

Vasudevan Lakshminarayanan, University of Waterloo

Over the summer I visited India, more specifically Kolkata, where I was a keynote speaker at the 3rd International Conference on Optoelectronics and Applied Optics (Optronix 2016). In addition, I visited with the OSA Student Chapter at the University of Engineering and Management/Institute of Engineering and Management in Kolkata.  I also visited the student chapter at the Indian Institute of Technology at Kharagpur.  This was a short, but very filled schedule.
The meeting was held from 18-20, August 2016 on the campus of the University of Engineering and Management.  The chief organizer was Professor Indrani Bhattacharya, who is also the student chapter advisor.  The theme of the meeting was “green photonics”.  There were a number of distinguished speakers including many OSA Fellows – e.g., Ajoy Ghatak, Rajpal Siroki, Kehar Singh, L.N. Hazra, T.Galstian  – as well as Professor T. Yatagai. The total number of participants was approximately 200.  A number of topics were covered ranging from silicon photonics, organic photonics, biophotonics, biomedical optics, fiber optics, devices, terahertz imaging, etc.  There were a number of student presentations including a poster session and best paper awards were given.

On the evening of the second day of the meeting I visited with the student chapter members – there were about 50 people in the audience.  I did a question and answer session for about 1.5 hours, talking about OSA, programs, as well as the state of research in optics and general advice.  It was very good to meet enthusiastic students who are eager to interact with visitors, learn and network.  The UEM/IEM does not have a graduate program in optics per se; however, there is some research being done in the Electrical and Electronic Engineering as well as computer science departments.  For example, Professor Bhattacharya works on Walsh functions in image processing.  The University gives out B.Tech and M.Tech degrees.  They also have some students registered for the Ph.D.  However, the members are primarily undergraduate students.

On the evening of the third day I was driven about 150km to the campus of the Indian Institute of Technology in Kharagpur, which is the first IIT set up in the country.  My host there was Professor Prashanto Dutta who is a senior member of OSA and is associated with the department of Physics.  He also serves as the faculty advisor to the OSA chapter.  Even though it was a Saturday evening, about 30 students were in attendance.  I spent over 2 hours interacting with the students. Many of them were graduate students and work in areas ranging from quantum optics, nonlinear optics, light-matter interaction, fiber optics, nonlinear optics, etc.  The next morning, I visited two of the labs working on nonlinear optics for about 2 hours.  There were about 10 students who took me around the labs. I also interacted with Professor Dutta and his graduate students (in fact our discussions will turn out as the basis of a paper!).  
Overall, this was a short, but hectic trip.  However, it was all worth it – I got to meet some of the future members of the optics profession, form new friendships and the trip was also intellectually stirring.  I want to thank OSA for the opportunity to visit Kolkata and Kharagpur and a Traveling Lecturer. 
Image for keeping the session alive