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Sharing My True Excitement for the Inaugural International Day of Light

Howard Lee, OSA Ambassador, Baylor University, USA

I started my optics research when I was an undergraduate researcher at CUDOS (Centre for Ultrahigh bandwidth Devices for Optical Systems) at the University of Sydney in 2005. I became so excited about photonics research that decided to pursue a PhD in photonics at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Light, where I studied advanced plasmonic photonic crystal fiber, and then as a postdoc fellow at California Institute of Technology (Caltech) for nano-photonics and metasurfaces research. I started my own research group on nanophotonics at Baylor University two and half year ago.
For almost 13 years, I have been fortunate to be able to interact with many amazing scientists and to learn both knowledge and good research practices from them. In addition, I am so glad to be part of important events in the optics and photonics community during the last few years. Three years ago, when we were celebrating the International Year of Light and I was so excited that OSA give me the opportunity to write blog posts in both CLEO and FiO conferences as an OSA Early Career Professional. In 2016, we also had the excitement of celebrating the 100th anniversary of OSA which was for sure one of the greatest FiO conferences in in Rochester!
This year, I am further honored and excited to serve as a 2018 OSA Ambassador. The role of 
an ambassador is to provide career advice, technical knowledge and mentorship through serving as a 
Traveling Lecturer for chapters and sections, supporting professional development events at OSA
 meetings, and engaging with various communities. Importantly, I have the chance to experience the 2018 CLEO conference and the inaugural International Day of Light (16 May) as an OSA Ambassador.

The International Day of Light (IDL) is a global initiative that provides an annual focal point for the continued appreciation of light and the role it plays in science, culture and art, education, and sustainable development, and in fields as diverse as medicine, communications, and energy.
IDL is a worldwide event to help achieve the goals of United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) – education, equality, and peace. This year more than 600 events were held in 87 countries reaching hundreds of thousands of people in addition to the celebration event held at the UNESCO headquarters in Paris, France. In Waco, Texas, our group is collaborating with the Mayborn Museum to celebrate IDL and to engage public interest in optics and photonics. We had professional training through the “Portal to the Public” program to learn how to effectively share knowledge with the public. We will organize an IDL event at the Mayborn Museum in the upcoming years with support from the Mayborn Museum and the National Science Foundation CAREER Program.

During CLEO 2018, OSA also organized different events for IDL. Events started with the great plenary session in the morning and the special “International Day of Light Presentation” from Dr. John Mather from NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, USA (Nobel Laureate in Physics 2006). We all enjoyed the excellent talk from Dr. Mather and learned how scientists explore the universe using light, such as how the James Webb Space Telescope is designed. The plenary talks in the same day from Jeff Kimble (Caltech) on “Quantum Optics” and Sara Seager (MIT) on “Mapping the Nearest Stars for Habitable Worlds” were also inspiring. The high quality of the talks gave a great start to CLEO and IDL. During the day, we also had great technical sessions, poster sessions, and technical group events. I enjoyed the high quality research presentations, the technical group events (e.g. Tutorial on Metasurface Design and Simulation from the Photonic Metamaterials Technical Group), and the new format of the “Dynamic e-Poster”. The day was full of fun, and the day ended with the conference receptions for all the optical scientists networking and discussing their research with the great food and drink.

Overall, I enjoyed very much this year’s IDL and CLEO. It is so great to see optics and photonics are being promoted to the general public. As an optical scientist and educator, it is our responsibility to provide public awareness and understanding on the importance and impact of optics. I wish all success for the worldwide events on the International Day of Light every 16 May!
At the end of the conference, I had a great chance to discuss with Prof. Ursula Gibson from Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Norway, who is the current President-Elect and will assume the role of President in 2019 for OSA, about her positive view on optics and the International Day of Light:


Howard Lee:  How optics/photonics impact your life and career so far?
Ursula Gibson: The answer is different for my everyday life and my professional life.  The changes in photography and image processing are probably the biggest everyday 'optics' factors. Photonics has enabled changes in personal communications; for example, on Skype or Zoom we now have the bandwidth to connect with people visually as well as orally.
Professionally, I started my research career in solid state materials- superconductivity, to be more specific. I switched to optical materials in graduate school. When I started as an assistant professor in Arizona, I joined the Optical Society, and I found it to be a broad and dynamic scientific community. It has been hugely supportive over the years.   Connecting with the optics community was immensely powerful because that community had a set of properties of interest and I had a set of (material science) tools that could be used to help colleagues look at a range of phenomena. The resulting collaborations have been central to my career.
Howard Lee:What do you think on the impact and the expectation for “International Day of Light” will be?
Ursula Gibson:
Optics and photonics are important for both the Optical Society and human society more generally. The International Year of Light was a wonderful opportunity to educate people, from young to old, about their everyday interactions with the field of optics.
I see the International Day of Light as a way of reminding the people of the incredible experience that they had in 2015, and as an ongoing opportunity to educate them about the impact of Optics and Photonics.
Image for keeping the session alive