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Becoming an OSA council student representative

Alvaro Casas Bedoya, OSA Senior Member, University of Sydney, Australia

The email:

I am the staff liaison to the OSA Member & Education Services (MES) Council.  Several months ago, you submitted your nomination to serve as the student representative to the MES Council.  You were elected as an alternate.  The position is now open, and I would like to invite you to serve in this capacity.

The official letter:

On behalf of Thomas M. Baer, 2009 President of the Optical Society, I am pleased to invite you to serve as the student representative for the Member & Education Services (MES) Council for a 2-year term beginning January 1, 2010, and ending December 31, 2011.

My answer:



This is how my official involvement with the OSA councils started. Nearly 10 years ago, I was offered the opportunity to represent all OSA student members and help shape the future of new OSA member programs. This dramatically changed my life and career perspective as I was directly influencing and endorsing new initiatives. As a member of this Council, I was part of the local grants & awards subcommittee. Here, I reviewed numerous applications for the large student chapter excellence award and the Incubic Milton Chang Travel Grant.

I was also member of the Local Activities Subcommittee where I served as The International OSA Network of Students program (IONS) Student Planning Committee and reviewed and approved many IONS student conferences around the world.

Another role I assumed was that of volunteer for the OSA leadership in 2013 as a member of the Publications Council. As a young professional, I brought new perspectives and ideas to the Council. For instance, I had the fortune to contribute to the team that put together the guidelines and goals for the new OSA high impact factor journal, Optica, and had the big responsibility of selecting and suggesting candidates for the different positions in the publication area. These include: Editor-in-Chief of Optics Express and Optics Letters journals and the Chair for the OSA Board of Editor’s Council.

In addition to being a technical committee member for  OSA’s annual meeting, Frontiers in Optics + Laser Science (FiO + LS), I was twice the  co-chair for the Photonic Integration and Silicon Photonics session in the OSA Latin America Optics & Photonics Conference (LAOP) and participated as an organizing committee member in the coordination of the CUDOS Workshop on Optomechanics and Brillouin Scattering (WOMBAT), held in the Sydney CBD in July 2015.

I feel honored that my leadership and engagement with the international community has been recognized by the OSA. I was awarded the 2015 International Young Professional Award which is a significant annual recognition awarded to an outstanding young professional who has made a substantial contribution to both OSA and the international community as a volunteer. In 2016, I was honored once more by being selected as one of the 10 international OSA Ambassadors. This privilege allowed me, as an emerging leader in the optics and photonics field, to visit and share my experiences and perspectives with students and young professionals while providing career advice, technical knowledge and mentorship.

Finally, in 2019, I was selected as an OSA senior member and invited to serve as a contributing editor to Optics and Photonics News (OPN).  

I have also had a major influence in the Australian educational sector. In 2014, I proposed and coordinated a student challenge aimed to renew the international educational resource; “The OSA optics discovery kit”. This kit is supplied to schools, teachers and students around the world through outreach programs and it contains a variety of optical components and detailed instructions that aim to introduce students to modern optical science and engineering. Together with my colleagues at the University of Sydney, we tailored the experiential outcomes of the entries with the Australian national curriculum. We then, distributed the kit to several teachers who participated in our outreach.

I am currently the University of Sydney OSA/SPIE student chapter advisor, supporting and advising different groups of highly motivated students. Their leadership development is truly inspiring. One of their most successful projects was joining the 2015 annual Light Festival called Vivid in Sydney. Here they implemented a Laser Harp which attracted more than 1 million visitors. The Laser Harp is a musical instrument which has 15 laser “strings” which play notes when the laser beams are interrupted. Each note was accompanied by an on-screen animation, and each animation described a different property of a wave: size, volume, frequency, pitch and speed. Now the chapter incorporates this implementation for all their outreach activities

All these various volunteer opportunities have been an invaluable career-building experience for me that without doubt I would like to share with my fellow researchers and students. I have been able to connect in unique ways with researchers around the globe while building an exceptional professional network and contributing to the international optics community. I strongly believe that becoming an OSA member in 2004 was the best decision of my academic career.

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