Early recognition can build and sustain optics and photonics careers

30 June 2023
Bernard Kress

There are few fields in science today that can stimulate a sense of passion in kids and young students more than optics and photonics.

With imaging and sensors present in every student’s back pocket and the unveiling of the mysteries of our Universe with breakthroughs such as the discovery of gravitational waves with LIGO or the deep-field pictures from the James Webb Space Telescope, to the awe of putting on, for the first time, a high-end AR headset and being immersed in an augmented world with instant superpowers, to the terabytes of data flowing in tiny optical fibers that comprise the backbone of the internet and the secrets of optical quantum computing, few fields trigger more amazement in the minds of students than optical engineering.

Students who choose this field show true passion for understanding our world and for developing new tools and devices toward the betterment of the human condition. To nurture such early passion over a long and successful career, SPIE has put in place various student scholarship programs and student member awards. Public recognition at an early stage is a strong incentive for students to excel in and continue with an optics and photonics career. That’s why the scholarships and awards are among my favorite programs to support as a Board Member and President.

Recognizing excellence in Student Members can also be a seed for building tomorrow’s SPIE leadership, enticing students to become strong community leaders, first in student chapters and then, at later stages in their career, helping steer the Society and serving the community at large.

This year, SPIE awarded $293,000 in optics and photonics education scholarships to 72 outstanding SPIE Student Members, based on their potential contribution to optics and photonics, or a related discipline. SPIE has cumulatively distributed more than $7 million in individual scholarships since the program began in 1978.

What’s more, SPIE offers technician scholarships, student conference support, and the SPIE- Franz Hillenkamp Postdoctoral fellowship as other support for Student Members.

The annual SPIE Presidential Award for Outstanding Student Chapter, established in 2022, is a way to show the Society’s appreciation for our student chapters and their critical contributions to the optics and photonics community. I am very pleased to announce that OSKar (Optics Students of Karlsruhe) of the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology in Germany, has been awarded the 2023 Presidential Award for Outstanding Student Chapter, and I look forward to awarding them in person at Optics + Photonics in August.

Seeing this flame of passion for optics and photonics in a young student’s eye, and how SPIE can help grow that flame into a strong and long-lasting career is for me the greatest reward as President. Please join me in congratulating all of this year’s recipients and welcoming their future contributions to our community.


Bernard Kress

2023 SPIE President




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