Following considerable of preparation, the University of Cambridge SPIE student chapter (CUSPIE) launched its first major event – the Michaelmas seminar talk – given by the renowned physicist Professor Philip Russell, FRS. This one-day event was a remarkable success and greatly increased the chapter’s influence in West Cambridge, the hub of natural sciences at the University of Cambridge.
Professor Russell, director of the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Light, is one of the pioneers in the field of light technology. After completing his D. Phil in the field of volume holography, he joined Technische Universität Hamburg-Harburg as an Alexander von Humboldt Fellow. Later in 1986, he took a position in the fibre optics group at the University of Southampton. In 1995, along with researchers at the University of Bath, he directed the research which led to the creation of the first Photonic Crystal Fibres (PCF) with micron-level inner structures. This revolutionised the field of optical fibre technology.
To honour his contributions to the field of photonic crystal fibres, numerous awards and recognitions have been bestowed upon Professor Russell over the years. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society and the Optical Society of Light (OSA) and has won several international awards for his research: the 2000 OSA Joseph Fraunhofer Award/Robert M. Burley Prize, the 2005 Thomas Young Prize of the Institute for Physics (UK), the 2005 Körber Prize for European Science, the 2013 European Physical Society Prize for Research into the Science of Light, the 2014 Berthold Leibinger Zukunftspreis, and the 2015 IEEE Photonics Award. He was the Director-at-Large of OSA in its early years and served as the president of OSA in 2015, the International Year of Light.
The entire day of 22nd of November was scheduled to give Professor Russell a glimpse of ongoing research in the field of optics and photonics at the University of Cambridge. The schedule covered lab visits, meetings with various group leaders in the Cavendish Laboratory, informal lunch with the CUSPIE committee, and dinner with invited guests.
The day began with visiting the newest building in West Cambridge, the Maxwell Centre, which aims to promote the interaction between academia and industry. Dr. Tijmen Euser (Lecturer and Fellow of Magdalene College) – also a former student of Prof. Russell - hosted Professor Russell in his Optofluidics Lab. It was a great pleasure for us to give them a chance to reunite through our event. Accompanied by the chapter’s President (Jiangbin Zhang), Prof. Russell then visited the NanoPhotonics Centre where Dr. Hamid Ohadi and William Deacon introduced their work on polaritons quantum condensates and plasmonic molecular sensing. It was very exciting to witness the stimulating discussions between the enthusiastic young scientists and the well-established senior scientists. This was followed by a visit to the Centre of Advanced Photonics and Electronics (CAPE) where Dr. George Gordon introduced his fantastic work on using optical coherent light scattering to diagnose early-stage cancer, which might greatly improve the accuracy of diagnosis.
After a busy morning, the committee members spent some quality time with the Professor at an informal lunch meeting. Following this, Prof. Russell met with the Cavendish Professor of Physics, Sir Richard H. Friend. Shahab Akhavan (Treasurer, CUSPIE) then escorted Professor Russell to the Centre for Graphene Studies (CGS) where several Senior Research Fellows welcomed our guest and brought him up to speed with all the fascinating one-layer carbon sheet research in Cambridge. Finally, the lab tours ended with visiting the ultrafast laser labs in Optoelectronics (OE) Group with Qifei Gu (Webmaster, CUSPIE). Arfa Karani (Vice President, CUSPIE) and Jiangbin – both PhD students in OE – also attended this final lab tour and engaged in some exciting discussions with Professor Russel about their research.
The highlight of the day came with Professor Russell’s delightful seminar on ‘Gas, Glass and Light: 25 years of Photonic Crystal Fibres’ at the Pippard Lecture Theatre, Cavendish Laboratory. With a large attendance this was one of the most popular talks in Cavendish this term. A Q&A session hosted by Arfa followed the talk in which she asked Professor Russell about his advice on career development for young student members of SPIE.
Some precious advice came from Prof. Phillip in his response when being asked, “What do you look for in applications of students who wish to join your research group?” to which he replied “…students should ideally have a specific project idea to start working on, should be well aware of the work going on in the group and should have read some of the papers published by the group. Asking intelligent questions about our group’s work and supporting references letters also play an important part in creating good impression”. On being questioned (based on his brilliant talent with musical instruments) if the aspiring students should know a musical instrument in order be able to join his research group, Prof. Russell replied laughing “Well, that’s of course a necessity, yes! *Wink*”.
A drinks reception followed this session, which led to enhanced interaction between our guest speaker and attendees. This gave the committee an opportunity to publicize CUSPIE and talk about the benefits of becoming a SPIE member.
Overall this event was a fantastic success and we express our immense gratitude to Professor Russell for his time and for sharing some brilliant ideas. The SPIE visiting lecturer scheme allows us to host pioneers in the field of optics and light, and provides an excellent opportunity to researchers at all levels to interact, communicate and share their exciting science!
Future events will be planned with the same vigour to promote our community and the CUSPIE. We are also keen to explore the industrial aspects of light technology research at upcoming events. Stay tuned to our Facebook page or blog to hear more about these exciting upcoming events!