Where in the (SPIE) world is Anita?

01 May 2022
Anita Mahadevan-Jansen

If you have been reading my letters in Photonics Focus, you know that the running theme for my notes has been Connecting Minds. As a researcher in biophotonics, my SPIE connections have mostly been with others in the community of attendees for BiOS: Biomedical Optics, and those who routinely attend Photonics West, including Members who work in the photonics industry.

It was only when I started engaging in the work of various SPIE committees, that I started to realize how much more there is to the SPIE community beyond BiOS. Our Society includes members who work in astronomy, defense, sensing, smart structures, and more. And yet even as I have been a part of the various SPIE committees, my interactions with these communities have been limited. So, I have made it part of my mission this year to get to know and connect with SPIE constituents from these technical areas by attending as many SPIE conferences and exhibitions hosted globally as possible (without needing to clone myself).

My first foray into this unfamiliar territory after Photonics West was SPIE Medical Imaging (MI), held 20–24 February in San Diego, California. This is a smaller meeting that was held in-person for the first time in two years. Those who are not part of these communities assume that attendees for BiOS and MI are the same. And yet, in 33 years of being a part of SPIE, I had never attended MI and really don’t know the people who are part of that conference’s community. This year, they were celebrating their 50th anniversary since the inception of the conference, and I really enjoyed meeting old timers as well first timers there. I learned about the pioneers of the community who started their annual gathering, met with past and current chairs who have been instrumental in the success of the program, and I interacted with the rising stars who will continue to keep this meeting vibrant.

The MI co-chairs are a close-knit group who have led SPIE in proceedings submission rate, and who keep moving forward with a robust succession plan for conference leadership. I came away with the conviction that, indeed, SPIE is about facilitating interactions and connecting minds regardless of the community.

As an international society, SPIE seeks to connect minds globally through published works, in-person events, virtual forums, and professional development activities that support our community of optics and photonics. The underpinnings of these tools of the trade are free and open exchange of ideas, innovation in science and technology using light, and connecting people with like and disparate interests for the betterment of society.

Big words to explain that, at its heart, SPIE is about bringing individuals from all over the world together to interact, network, brainstorm, and share. However, open exchange of ideas and free interactions between people requires a safe environment without fear, guilt, and boundaries. My travels will take me to Europe next, parts of which are in the midst of military aggression and chaos. I look forward to connecting with my European academic and industrial colleagues and learning about their communities and progress even during what have suddenly become very difficult times.

2022 SPIE President Anita Mahadevan Jansen

Anita Mahadevan-Jansen

2022 SPIE President

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