Together again, to grow and give back

01 March 2023
Bernard Kress

Like many of you, at the end of January, I was in San Francisco for SPIE Photonics West. Attending a major conference and reuniting with the SPIE community in person reminded me of the value of human connection and the Society’s role in bringing us together.

While the week was intense and nonstop, taking a pause now and looking back through the various lenses I wore during the week, it’s clear to me that in person conferences are the best place for researchers and engineers to further their careers. This year’s Photonics West attendance and exhibition surpassed all my wildest expectations. The feedback I received from many of you after the show was also unequivocal: In person events are the right way to network among peers, share latest research results, unveil new products, reach towards new clients and meet new vendors and partners, and as a result advance the field of optics and photonics. I feel particularly excited about the prospects of connecting industries, startups, and academia to uncover new common opportunities, which often rely on personal connections and trust that cannot be built in virtual settings.

In addition to my role as SPIE President this year, I also chaired the AR|VR|MR conference co-located with Photonics West, which saw a similar record attendance. The upcoming Digital Optical Technologies conference co-located with Laser Munich in June is another conference I am helping chair. As a regular conference attendee or as a conference chair, I feel equally privileged to have a front row seat to the latest and greatest research and technologies. SPIE provides a venue for dissemination, discussion, and networking that is crucial to both technology and career advancements.

Whereas in-person meetings have been proven to be the best format to build up connections via conferences and exhibitions, online events remain key to nurturing such connections and growing communities in between meetings, as we do with the AR/VR fireside chats I host monthly.

One of the most rewarding aspects of conference and Society leadership is seeing students receive public recognition from industry at our events, such as this year’s Optical Design Challenge event at AR|VR|MR. By leveraging such early recognition, students gain the self-confidence necessary to engage in entrepreneurship, create their own startup, raise venture capital, develop amazing products, and come back a few years later for their turn in sponsoring a new wave of promising students at SPIE events. I have witnessed many such success stories unfolding these past years, with SPIE as the main springboard.

While there is a time to benefit from the Society’s many services, there is also a time to reflect and give back to the community in many different and rewarding ways. This is how our community can grow larger and stronger, and how we can build together a brighter future for optics and photonics.


Bernard Kress

2023 SPIE President

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