President's letter: Building excitement—for SPIE and the optics and photonics enterprise

01 September 2022
Anita Mahadevan-Jansen

I am more than halfway through my year as SPIE President. I can truly say that it has been a privilege and joy to serve the SPIE community in this role. I have learned so much about the various communities that SPIE serves, and I hope I have contributed to the Society’s success in a meaningful way. We are steadily coming back together to pre-covid-19 participation levels at SPIE conferences and exhibitions. This is heartening to me as a scientist and educator.

In my last letter, I shared my three goals as SPIE President: Increasing the diversity of candidates nominated for recognition, identifying leaders for the future governance of SPIE, and creating a culture of mentoring for students and early-career professionals in optics and photonics.

I have always focused part of my effort to being a mentor for young researchers, from the undergraduate to the graduate and professional levels. In my travels, I have come to realize even more the need for mentors. This becomes critical as we seek to build the diversity of our community and to develop the optics and photonics workforce. If each of us serves as a mentor to at least one student or early-career professional, we can help our community move forward.

Workforce shortages across all areas of optics and photonics mean that we must be particularly creative in building a pipeline into our optics and photonics enterprise, from industry, academia, and government. SPIE has been serving the needs of our community through the Career Center and professional development activities at our various events. However, we may need to do more. SPIE volunteers and staff will need to work together to test new ideas and to develop a plan for long-term sustainability of this pipeline.

The pandemic and other international events have changed the expectations of young people we seek to recruit. On the other hand, positive developments like passage of the European Chips Act in the EU, the CHIPS Act passed by the US Congress, and formation of the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Health (ARPA-H) by the US federal government, provide the impetus and need for critical thinking outside the box that will build excitement for careers in optics and photonics. To sustain the excitement, we know, for example, that internships are a surefire path to permanent jobs as they provide the opportunity for both employer and employee to get to know one another. Traineeships also provide a survey of various positions within a company, offering an additional model to follow.

Can we work together to create new opportunities for job seekers and facilitate the future of optics and photonics? Food for thought.

Supporting our community into the future is part of SPIE’s mission, and we face unique challenges today. But collectively we are strong and together we can meet these challenges with success.

2022 SPIE President Anita Mahadevan Jansen

Anita Mahadevan-Jansen

2022 SPIE President

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