Leadership workshop: Traveling to a new country all by yourself can be a daunting experience. Although I have traveled to a lot of previously, I realized I was always accompanied by a friend or a colleague on most of my trips. This trip however, was going to be my first trip alone. I was nervous ever since we took off an hour late from London. I somehow made it to my connecting flight in time, but unfortunately (or fortunately) my flight from Dallas to Los Angeles was delayed by 3 hours. This meant that I was going to miss the last train at night (10:20pm) from Los Angeles to San Diego (my final destination). Since the delay was due to a maintenance issue by the airline, they offered me a hotel room to stay for the night and I could take the first train in the morning to San Diego. A couple of hours late, but I finally made it to the leadership workshop! And all that nerve-racking travel seemed so worth it!
It was a day full of exciting activities with chapter officers from all across the globe. In groups of 7-10 people we got to interact and perform tasks with a team full of young leaders. From tackling situations like handing over the chapter to a new committee to running a chapter efficiently we discussed and concluded on best strategies to overcome challenges with SPIE Student Chapters. Jean-Luc Doumont, led the workshop with great enthusiasm while teaching us the dos and don’ts for becoming a successful leader. It was a fruitful day full of activities that helped all the 180 of us to mingle and get to know each other!
Outreach Games: Following the networking and workshop activities on Saturday, it was our chance to demonstrate our chapter outreach kits to a global audience on Sunday. With over 20 stalls in place, the exhibition room was ready to host audiences with varied backgrounds. Iliya Stoev, CUSPIE (Cambridge University SPIE Chapter) member, helped me set up our outreach stall called ‘The Colour and Sound of Cancer’
Using a few Pulse Oximeters, a digital stethoscope and a modulated light torch, we demonstrated the use of light in detecting cancer. The pulse oximeters were used to demonstrate how the simple principle of light absorption was used to measure the amount of oxygen in one’s blood. Followed by that explanation, we conveyed how the absorbed light can be detected in our bodies through ultrasound detectors instead of light detectors. Although the background noise in the room made it very difficult for to demonstrate the functioning of our photophone, we had a great time explaining the importance of optics in earl detection of cancer.
Chapter Mixer: Outreach activities, although crucial, are only a part of what we do as student chapters. There was a lot more we needed to share about our chapters and learn from other chapters. SPIE gave us the opportunity to do so at the Chapter Mixer. An evening of poster sessions where we presented posters about the activities we carry out in our respective chapters. University of Cambridge, being one of the youngest chapter present, received a lot of attention especially for having reached various departments across the University with our activities.
Conference Presentation: Being actively involved with various networking and chapter activities during the evenings, we had our mornings booked with scientific talks. As it was a conference with representation from various fields, the SPIE Conference app made sure that we were aware of all the relevant talks happening at every hour of the day. Personally, as I work on fabricating solution processed tandem solar cells, while developing theoretical models to understand the potential of my devices, there were a wide range of talks that appealed to me. From industrial (III-V) tandem solar cells to multi-junction organic tandem cells, it was an incredible experience finding out about all the issues we have been solving as a community in this field. Finally, I had the opportunity to present my work on solution-processed tandem solar cells to a room full of experienced researchers. It was my first ever conference talk and the most fulfilling experience I’ve had so far in my science career. I received a lot of encouraging suggestions and comments on what the future holds for my research project.
Hopefully, I’ve managed to convince you that SPIE Student Chapters offer a lot more than just individual events. It offers you the opportunity to be a part of an entire community of like-minded scientists who are keen to develop their skills in every sector.
Last week the SPIE Student Chapter gathered four of leaders in photonics from around Cambridge. Professor Sir Richard Friend, Director of the Maxwell Centre, Professor Andrea Ferrari, Director of the Graphene Centre, Professor Jeremy Baumberg, Director of the Nanophotonics Centre, and Professor Oren Scherman, Director of the Melville Laboratory gathered to discuss the future of research.
Each of the esteemed speakers gave a fifteen minute presentation of their work, and speculated about the future of their research. Following this, the professors took part in a lively panel discussion, with questions directed at the panel from an audience of around 100 graduate and postgraduate students.
As well as some serious discussion around the topics of scientific funding and undergraduate teaching, the panel also shared some laughter whilst discussing the pros and cons of their respective fields, and their past interactions.
Following the talks, the audience were invited to join the professors at a drinks reception with wine and pizza being provided by the student chapter, a perfect chance for the professors to answer any further questions they had evaded during the panel discussion.
The SPIE Cambridge Student Chapter would like to thank the Winton Programme for Physics of Sustainability, the Sensor Doctoral Training Center (CambridgeSense) and the Integrated Photonics and Electronics System Center for Doctoral Training (IPES CDT) for their sponsorship for this event.
Dale Waterhouse, outreach officer of the University of Cambridge SPIE Student Chapter, organised and participated in student outreach event visiting schools in South Yorkshire. The event was a collaboration between VISIONLab and the Student Chapter. To read more about the engaging activities on the day please follow the link to the VISIONLab blog.
We thank SPIE Education Outreach Grant for the support that enabled us to conduct this event and to share our passion for optics and photonics.
Last week 6 young principal investigators from 5 departments across the University of Cambridge gathered with an audience of around 50 students to share their top tips for becoming a successful group leader in optics and photonics.
After briefly introducing their research in a short flash presentation, the PIs gathered at the front of the lecture theatre to take part in a stimulating panel discussion.
Outreach aficionados in the audience were delighted to hear the majority of group leaders recommend outreach and public engagement as a method of enhancing communication skills. Sarah Bohndiek emphasised that the ability to communicate with the public goes hand in hand with the ability to effectively communicate the core ideas of a research proposal, increasing the chances of securing the crucial funding required to run a successful research group. Steven Lee echoed this, explaining that running his podcast, TheScienceShed, had taught him to better convey his scientific ideas.
The young researchers also discussed carving out your research niche, though there was disagreement on whether to find your own, with Stefanie Reichelt revealing she had her own microscope at the age of 12, or whether to let your niche find you. Indeed, many niches come in and out of fashion anyway.
Alternatively, Emilie Ringe emphasised the importance of finding your niche skill set by imagining a 3 circle Venn diagram of skills. Should only 2 circles of unique skills be currently on this imaginary figure, she explained, you should search for a third, such that the intersection of the three represents a unique skill set only you possess.
Hannah Joyce pointed out that you don’t necessarily need to be an extrovert to be enthusiastic about your research and convey that to others, a reassuring message to the more introverted members of the audience. She went on to explain that professional presentation training was available to help us to communicate our research more effectively.
Sam Stranks remarked on how the best chances of success can be achieved by making your work stand out as much as possible. Reassuringly though, the PIs were unified in admitting that the majority of academic endeavours result in failure, at all stages and for all people. The key, as cliché as it may be, is to keep trying and never give up!
The young investigators also highlighted networking as a crucial aspect of becoming a PI, and the SPIE student chapter gave aspiring PIs the opportunity to do so following the panel, laying on a wine and nibbles. Indeed, attendees took the advice on board, enjoying the outstanding refreshments and food kindly supported by our sponsors, many sticking around to mingle with the PIs and one another for well over an hour after the scheduled end time of the event.
The committee would like to extend a special thanks to Sarah Bohndiek, Sam Stranks, Steven Lee, Hannah Joyce, Emilie Ringe and Stefanie Reichelt for giving up an evening to share their experiences. We would also like to thank our kind sponsors, the Department of Physics, The Winton Programme for the Physics of Sustainability, CamBridgeSens, Nano DTC and IPES CDT on behalf of all the attendees and the CUSPIE committee.
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On the evening of 27 November 2017 CUSPIE hosted an event bridging the gap between academia and industry. With support from the EPSRC Doctoral Training Centre in Nanoscience and Nanotechnology (NanoDTC) as well as from Integrated Photonic and Electronic Systems (IPES CDT) and the Winton Programme for the Physics of Sustainability the event took place in the Maxwell Centre Cambridge to successfully host an audience of more than 40 people. The event was inaugurated by evening’s academic host, Winton Advanced Research Fellow Dr. Felix Deschler, chairman of Physical Chemistry of Semiconductor Materials and Interfaces in the 2018 SPIE Nanoscience + Engineering conference. Dr. Deschler energetically described the benefits of joining and becoming an active member of the SPIE community.
The first talk on the topic of entrepreneurship in academia was presented by Prof. Daping Chu. Prof. Chu is the head of the Photonics & Sensors group, director of the Centre for Advanced Photonics and Electronics (CAPE) in Cambridge, and CTO of ROADMap Systems. By relating know-how from fundamental research and combining it with an entrepreneurial spirit, Prof Chu delivered unique insights in transforming research ideas into businesses. In his talk Prof. Chu outlined the many start-ups that have spun out of his research group.
The second venture capital themed talk was given by Dr. Darran Milne CEO and co-founder of VividQ, a company that develops highly realistic holographic display technology for the augmented and virtual reality market. Dr. Milne explained how challenging but also fulfilling the road from an original research idea to an actual product can be, including a cross-over from science courses to entrepreneurship.
The evening concluded with food and drinks allowing the fascinated audience to network and learn more about the speakers’ background and carrier in a more informal environment.
With generous sponsorship from SPIE and OSA (Optical Society of America) Student Chapter, CUSPIE Student Chapter hosted a Student- Alumni Networking event on the 9th of June, 2017. With a panel of six successful University of Cambridge alumni coming back to inspire and motivate the next generation of scientists, it was yet another evening leaving a mark in the STEM student community.
Our alumni guests included Dr. Michael Butler (Mike), R&D Director at Unilever; Dr. Nicola Humphry-Baker (Nicki), Project Content Creator at Isaac Physics; Dr. Julia Attwood, Analyst at Bloomberg New Energy Finances; Dr. Hannah Stern, who will be starting as Junior Research Fellow at Trinity College soon; Dr. Rhiannon Mulherin working in the Business Development with Shell and Dr. George Gordon, Henslow Research Fellow at St. Edmund’s College.
Left to Right: Arfa Karani, Chapter Vice-President and Chair; Dr. Michael Butler (Mike), R&D Director at Unilever; Dr. Hannah Stern, Junior Research Fellow at Trinity College; Dr. George Gordon, Henslow Research Fellow at St. Edmund’s College; Dr. Julia Attwood, Analyst at Bloomberg New Energy Finances; Dr. Rhiannon Mulherin working in the Business Development with Shell and Dr. Nicola Humphry-Baker (Nicki), Project Content Creator at Isaac Physics.
The event was intended to give the student members an idea of various options available to STEM students after finishing their PhDs. Each of the speakers shared an inspirational story from their professional journey so far.
With an ensemble of speakers, all from different career stages, we received a beautiful variety of advice. While Hannah thought it helped her to go out of her way to learn new programming languages in her spare time during her PhD, Mike had a completely different opinion. According to Mike, each job or upcoming opportunity requires you to learn a new set of skills particular to that job, so meanwhile, enjoying your PhD is the key! However, they both agreed that for each person the journey will be completely different and taking breaks when you need them, taking a step back and thinking about your options, is a must!
It was inspiring to hear Rhiannon talk about her path to Shell and in the off shore wind energy sector in the heart of a well-established oil giant! Julia spoke beautifully about her time as an overseas student (from Canada) in Cambridge. She described her struggle as she relied on the careers service at the University to secure jobs in the UK after completing her PhD, a struggle many will be familiar with.
Many STEM students are passionate about outreach and Nicki, who obtained her PhD found an incredible way of converting this passion for outreach into a career! Her story about how she juggled her personal and professional life whilst finding a way to turn her passion into a career was truly motivating!
George gave us some extremely critical advice on how important ‘networking’ was towards his career and how he fought through all the rejections to accomplish what he really wanted. Having switched fields completely from telecommunications to biomedical optics, George had a lot of inspiring stories to share with the students over some wine afterwards!
A couple of general themes that stood out from all the talks were: everyone’s journey through their careers is going to be entirely different and that rejections are a part of all application processes. With this in mind, we need to be sure of what we want and persevere; un-swayed by the rejections we are all sure to face!
And another important lesson, perhaps unexpected to some, was to enjoy PhD life, and not whittle it away with worry. Research while you have the opportunity to do so and fulfil your curious souls. The evening ended with an elaborate canape and wine reception where the students got a chance to dig a bit deeper into the wealth of knowledge very kindly offered by our alumni guests.
We would like to thank everyone who attended this event and once gain extend a massive thank you to our generous speakers for giving up their time and wealth of experience for our student chapter community. Thank you!
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For two weeks in March, Cambridge became abuzz with excitement as the 2017 Cambridge Science Festival captivated audiences young and old across the city. This was a chance for the University of Cambridge SPIE Student Chapter (CUSPIE) to reach out to the general public and share our love of optics, photonics and general science.
On Saturday 25th March, our advisor, Dr. Sarah Bohndiek launched our activities with an exciting talk, ‘Shedding Light on Cancer’, in which she described the work of VISIONLab, her Cambridge research group, in manipulating light to detect cancer sooner.
Following this exciting talk, guests were invited to get hands on with some demonstrations at our stall, ‘What is the Colour of Cancer’, where Sarah was available to answer further questions.
Manned by real scientists from both CUSPIE and VISIONLab, the stall demonstrated the equipment we use to manipulate light, and gave the audience a chance to engage with the real researchers.
Polarising glasses were used to demonstrate the polarisation of light and diffraction gratings were used to show splitting of light into its constituent colours, much to the attendees’ delight!
And there was plenty of time for attendees to ask questions about the research going on right now.
The stall was another great success for CUSPIE and VISIONLab, gathering great feedback:
“The "What is the colour of cancer" was fascinating and the person was really engaging.”
“What is the colour of cancer was so cool and the person hosting it was really engaging and passionate.”
We hope to see many people return to our future events.
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This Monday (6th of March 2017) marked yet another successful event for SPIE Student Chapter Cambridge (CUSPIE). Our guest speaker, Ms. Alaina G. Levine from Arizona, USA was sponsored by SPIE, The Winton Programme for Physics of Sustainability and CamBridgeSens (EPSRC CDT in Sensor Technologies and Applications) to visit Cambridge and take part in a day full of exciting events.
The day kicked off with an enjoyable and highly interactive workshop titled ‘Transitioning from a PhD into the real world!’ where Alaina provided the attendees with detailed tips on how to probe self-interests and identify jobs that bring you ‘joy’. Specifically targeted towards PhD students, this workshop provoked discussion around transitioning out of academia into alternative careers.
Following this, Alaina was kind enough to provide one-to-one consulting sessions to nine lucky students who had signed up in advance. Each had 15 minutes of personal consulting with Alaina jam-packed full of useful tips and discussion tailored to them.
Through this event, CUSPIE was yet again successful in providing a platform for people across the world to connect. One of the students completing their PhD with the Winton Programme of Physics of Sustainability commented ‘I have had my CV analysed and criticised by a lot of people, but no one with her calibre. All the feedback was extremely useful!’
The afternoon came to a close with an exciting seminar, ‘How to land your dream career in science? – Networking for Nerds!’
Alaina’s unique, often comedic, style of delivery really stuck a chord with the audience of around 60 people, but never distracted from her depth and wealth of knowledge and advice.
In the concluding 30 minute Q&A session, Alaina’s interaction with the audience continued to deliver yet more wisdom as she enthusiastically established that scientists (or scientists in making) are AWESOME and could get AWESOMER if they brushed up on their networking skills.
These networking skills were put to the test in a food and wine reception. Guests mingled with Alaina and other like-minded attendees.
After about six hours of inspiring talks and discussions, CUSPIE committee members along with a few invited guests had the honour of dining with Alaina. Over delicious Thai food, we discussed ways to network, build connections and develop the student chapter further. CUSPIE committee is very grateful to our sponsors and SPIE for this wonderful opportunity.
Finally, we would like to extend an enormous thank you to Alaina for an incredible day. Her passion and enthusiasm was infectious and will surely have inspired attendees to consider their personal and professional development. Thank you Alaina!
CUSPIE will soon be organising an Alumni and Students networking session to engage students at various levels. Watch this space for more news!