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.