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Advocating for Optics and Photonics

Julia H. Majors, OSA Ambassador

Washington, DC, USA is an incredible place for many reasons – not just because it houses The Optical Society (OSA) global headquarters and its wonderful, supportive staff. Beyond the breathtaking views and famous cherry blossoms are the ever important offices of the United States Congress. And while it may not seem like the work going on in Washington has a direct impact to the photonics community, that couldn’t be farther from the truth. 

Julia H. Majors, OSA Ambassador, Avo Photonics

And so, I write now to advertise the ultimate tourist excursion for OSA members …Capitol Hill Visits!

Participating in “Hill Visits” remain distinct highlights of my membership with OSA. In the congressional offices, I was able to speak with some of the members directly involved in drafting the actual legislation related to photonics that is now law. This included senators as well as congressional staff, and I had the opportunity to sit and discuss with them the huge role optics and photonics play in our day to day lives.

Indeed, it is directly thanks to the efforts of communities like OSA and its members that words like “photonics” are written into legislation that supports the vital work and development of these technologies. Beyond just including photonics language, efforts like the tremendously successful National Quantum Initiative are only possible because of this community’s contributions.

As members of the photonics community and advocates for our fields, OSA was at the ready with tremendous support and guidance to help me and my fellow members make our Hill visits successful. In addition to its long standing relationships with congressional offices that made scheduling easy, OSA helped us prepare and provide effective insights and expertise to elected officials of the U.S. government.

It might be surprising to learn that only 3% of congressional members hold PhDs — and only 20% of those are in scientific fields! 

During my visits, not only was I a “constituent,” representing the states of California and Texas, I was an expert with valuable knowledge. My understanding of just how impactful optical and photonics technologies are to every citizen provided first person insight to the people representing me in Congress. Moreover, I was offered the special opportunity to see how our government works from the inside and take a direct part in its function beyond just a vote, letter or phone call.

As much as I love visiting the National Monument and the Air and Space Museum, I will always put Capitol Hill Visits at the top of my list of recommendations to my fellow Optical Society members making a trip to our nation’s capital.

Image for keeping the session alive