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Traveling Lecturer: A Truly Rewarding Experience

Paolo Minzioni, Università di Pavia, Italy

After almost one year following the initial contacts with the OSA Student Chapter at Malaviya National Institute of Technology (Jaipur, India), I was finally able to take part in the OSA Traveling Lecturer Program. I must say that it really was a fascinating experience, which will probably have an impact on the future of several people. The only real issues I had to face were those related to securing a visa - this is just to recommend all of you that will be participating in the program to take visa issues properly into account!

Once I secured my visa, everything was very organized by the MNIT Student Chapter and I took full advantage of the services offered by OSA through their travel agency, Safe Harbors, to arrange my trip. An interesting thing that was arranged by the MNIT team, wise and useful, was that of matching my presence there with a conference on optical and wireless communications (OWT 2017), being organized by the same University: that allowed me to meet the students and discuss with them for a few days in a row, and in very different situations.

On the morning of my first day of visit, I started giving a 3-parts presentation to the students about OSA activities, an overview about my history and my research topics, and then I started discussing in detail the selected technical topic, i.e. the compensation of fiber nonlinear effects in optical transmission systems.

Very nicely, during the following days, at the OWT’17, I had the possibility to re-join with many of the students during coffee breaks, lunch and poster sessions. I tried to fully exploit these moments to talk with poster-presenting students, and with all those participating in the conference. The deep interest for the topics and the desire to contribute in the field was amazing, even in undergraduate students. I think that having the possibility to meet and talk in different situations, and not only after a presentation, allowed the students to feel more relaxed and more free to ask questions also about not purely-technical topics, such as University system in Italy, promising research topics, suggestions about how to start a career in the field, etc… . While some of the students’ contacts are still on-going, they will hopefully bring to the possibility for some of them to have a research experience in Italy.

Overall, I really think that this program is a great way to support OSA mission, and I strongly encourage all the OSA Student Chapters to take advantage of it and to exploit it fully. The Traveling Lecturer Program not only allows the communication of new scientific results, but it is also a way for students to get in contact with researchers from distant areas of the world that many of them would probably otherwise never meet.

At the same time, I have to stressthat this is a great experience for the speaker as well: the possibility to get in touch with different environments and traditions is already extremely satisfying, but these opportunities may also become the starting moments for new scientific collaborations otherwise difficult to imagine. My personal current perspective after the visit? To take advantage of the past visit, by starting new collaborations and by giving the maximum support I can to the students… but at the same time I also look forward to another opportunity to present OSA, and to interact with students from local OSA Student Chapters!
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