Skip To Content

Volunteer Cultivation Activities at the OSA Imaging & Sensing Congresses

Marcia Lesky, Sr. Director Diversity, Inclusion & Volunteer Cultivation, OSA

The Optical Society (OSA) is a society fueled by its members and volunteers in the optics and photonics community. During OSA’s recent joint Imaging & Applied Optics Congress and Optical Sensors & Sensing Congress, three networking events explored several OSA volunteer opportunities. Taking advantage of the meeting breaks, these networking events were designed to help connect the participants of the all-virtual meeting and to share information on ways members can get involved with volunteer opportunities across the Society.

The following sections provide an overview of the discussions during the three networking events share a bit more about the volunteer opportunities within each area.

Technical Groups

From imaging and sensing to quantum computing and laser science, optics and photonics covers a wide array of science. Organizationally, OSA has six broad technical divisions to help foster connections within different sub-fields, OSA members are able to join one or more of the over 40 technical groups within those divisions. These groups aim to create vibrant, active communities that provide valuable leadership and learning experiences, open the door to special events and provide the latest technical and research developments in a particular field. As well, technical groups create opportunities to expand networks and create lasting connections.

During this session, Daniel Smalley from Brigham Young University and a Technical Group Development Co-Chair for the OSA Board of Meetings along with Hannah Walter-Pilon OSA Director, New Business Development, Science Programming, were on hand to share some information and field questions from participants. They discussed how each technical group has its own chair and leadership structure that provides an excellent way to develop skills and connections valuable for other leadership opportunities across the society. In fact, technical group leaders not only have the ability to plan special events at meetings, but they also organize their own programs like webinars or Incubator meetings. Some of the most active technical groups have a large and engaged leadership team made up of people with diverse experience levels who help plan a variety of activities, including technical and networking programs. Some even appoint social media managers to promote their work and senior advisors to help guide technical conversations and identify potential speakers for their events.  

Meeting Committees

OSA develops and manages conferences, congresses and topical meetings as well as workshops and Incubators. Each program is guided by amazing volunteer General and Program Chairs and their program committees. Diversity within each committee is essential. Committee chairs build a team of experts from different topical areas within industry, academia and government research labs. They also look for geographic diversity and for different levels of experience with the goal of building a quality and impactful program.

For this networking event, Abbie Watnik of the US Naval Research Laboratory, Chair of the Imaging & Applied Optics Congress, and Gerard Wysocki of Princeton University, Chair of the Optical Sensors & Sensing Congress, were joined by Naomi Chavez, OSA Sr. Director, Technical Program Development and Strategy, Meetings & Exhibits to discuss the desired qualifications and characteristics of successful meeting committee members. In this session, the presenters provided an overview of the committee’s role from selecting the purpose/topics of the meeting, to identifying invited speakers, reviewing submitted papers and helping build plenary sessions and other special programs. How committee members are expected to attend the meetings to act as presiders, observe talks and participate in networking programs to find rising stars and potential new committee members. They also gave some great tips on how those involved with OSA Student Chapters and Technical Groups can both help provide the skills needed to be an excellent committee member and help get you noticed.

Journal Reviewers

OSA’s journals rely on input from the community, as editors and reviewers, to help select and disseminate the best and most relevant optics and photonics results. Applied Optics Topical Editor Kara Peters of NC State University and Journal of the Optical Society of America A (JOSA A) Topical Editor Samuel Thurman, Lockheed Martin Coherent Technologies were joined by OSA Sr. Publisher Kelly Cohen and OSA Executive Editor Alison Taylor to share some thoughts on reviewing for OSA journals. 

They gave advice on how to become a reviewer for those who have never reviewed before, and provided some insight into what makes a good review. They encouraged reviewers to re-read their reviews before submitting them and to think about the review from the authors’ perspective to make sure that comments on the technical content are clear and that recommendations will help make a stronger paper. They encouraged anyone interested in reviewing to make sure their profile is up to date and detailed – editors use this information to help match submissions with the most appropriate reviewers. OSA’s reviewer resource center details the peer review process, how to become a reviewer, and presents reviewer guidelines and a training program.

Make sure you update your OSA member profile in My Account (contact OSA Customer Service for assistance). You can select your technical groups, take the reviewer training, and identify your interest in getting involved with meetings. And these are just a few of the ways you can volunteer with OSA. To learn about more opportunities visit


Image for keeping the session alive