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New York FOCUS-IONS Conference

FOCUSing on Collaboration: IONS in New York City

By Kishore Padamaraju and Giovanni Milione

This past October SPIE student members at Columbia University and City College of New York collaboratively hosted SPIE's FOCUS conference in New York City. This year's FOCUS was held in concert with OSA's IONS conference and sponsored in part by Hamamatsu, Snyopsis, American Elements, and Thorlabs. Over 100 student members of the SPIE, OSA, European Optical Society, and American Physical Society representing over 25 countries around the world including Germany, Australia, Armenia,Colombia, and Ukraine participated in FOCUS-IONS.

FOCUS-IONS boasted a rich conference program sprawling the Columbia University and City College of New York campuses over three days with opening remarks by SPIE president Eustace Dereniak and OSA president Tony Heinz. Conference highlights included exciting presentations by student participants and invited speakers such as, "Practical Tractor Beams" by New York University PhD student David Ruffner and "Silicon Photonics" by Will Green of IBM's Thomas J. Watson Research Center. A professional development portion of the conference was highlighted by "The Elevator Pitch" tutorial led by SPIE Student Services Coordinator Dirk Fabian and rigorous Q&A on entrepreneurship with a panel made up of five NYC area technology startup founders. The conference closed with presentations by Dirk Fabian and OSA Student Service Coordinator Alison Jordan on SPIE and OSA student services as well as student participant presentations on OSA and SPIE student chapter activities and future FOCUS and IONS conferences. Student participants also enjoyed a number of social events including an elegant conference dinner at Columbia University's Faculty House and an evening of beer tasting at the Brooklyn Brewery.

Collaboration was key to the success of FOCUS-IONS. Using both City Columbia University and the College of New York not only allowed student participants to experience two of NYC's most venerated academic institutions but also provided a diverse and effective organizing committee. Combing FOCUS and IONS enable us to leverage generous resources from both SPIE and OSA resulting in more student and invited speaker travel grants, more conference events, and overall a better conference. Some lessons for future organizers include: Start organizing early. Never take no for an answer. Utilize your team. All organizing committee members play an essential role from preparing visa letters to contacting sponsors. We hope FOCUS-IONS can serve as a model for future student conferences.


FOCUS-IONS conference participants on the steps of Columbia University's Low Library.