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Student Leadership Day

By Carlos López-Mariscal and Radu Malureanu

Over one hundred students from 15 different countries gathered to attend the SPIE Student Chapter Leadership Workshop at the Optics & Photonics conference held 30 July in San Diego. Despite jet lag, lost baggage and an early start, students appeared at 9am to take part in a full day of activities.

Attendance at the Annual Leadership Workshop continues to grow dramatically, up 30% from the previous year.
Balpreet Singh Ahluwalia, from the Nanyang Technical University in Singapore, commented: "This is an excellent opportunity to get in touch with other students working in the same field and exchange fresh ideas. It is also a chance to meet with old friends and catch up with work done on collaboration ideas we've had in the past."

The focus of this year's Leadership Workshop was on developing good strategies and practices for doing science outreach to pre-college students. During the morning session, Keivan Stassun, Assistant Professor of Physics & Astronomy at Vanderbilt University talked to students on the importance of employing novel techniques in outreach, such as collaborative learning. Collaborative learning, where students take a direct role in teaching their peers, gets them to practice with the language of science and helps to break down the many of the misconceptions they cling to throughout their science education. Stassun also called the student leaders to view outreach as an important pursuit of a scholar, one that not only contributes to the community but is a vital part of one's professional portfolio.

Carlos Mariscal interviews Mingxia Gu of the Kent State Chapter and veteran SPIE Officer.
4.7MB Quicktime Movie
Yaroslav, Martha Alvarez, and Gerardo Martinez (left to right) discuss the details of collaborative learning exercises during the workshop.
Rodrigo Ponce, from Tecnológico de Monterrey, said: "As a postgraduate student, I am a teaching assistant in my University and I often have to come up with innovative ways of explaining concepts related to optics and physics. I believe collaborative learning brings students to a more interactive role and deepens their understanding of science in the classroom."
2005 SPIE President, Dr. Malgorzata Kujawinska, joins students Ivy Krystal Jones, Radu Malureanu, Michal Mrozinski, Balpreet Singh Ahluwalia, and Carlos López-Mariscal for lunch during the Leadership Workshop.
Involvement was one of the main themes of the Leadership Workshop. Student leaders discussed how outreach and networking with community educators is a useful strategy for recruiting and retaining members. Through outreach events, students new to SPIE chapters have an outlet for their energy, get immediate positive feedback, and contribute to their skills as scholars and scientists. Prof. Malgorzata Kujawinska addressed attendees and commented on the importance of Student Chapters as the means of getting students involved in all kinds of SPIE activities, such as technical paper presentations, outreach, and conference organization. She also offered the student attendees the possibility to attend various SPIE committees to better understand the dynamics of making decisions within a large, international structure. Throughout the week, twelve students participated in SPIE committee meetings on education, membership, scholarship, publications, and public policy. Eugene Arthurs, Executive Director of SPIE emphasized the ability to be involved in SPIE decision-making: "... current student members are the next SPIE leaders."

After lunch, Stephen Jacobs, Professor of Optics and Chemical Engineering at the University of Rochester, presented an outreach activity on the properties of liquid crystals designed to be taught to middle school students. Through a generous grant, Jacobs provided kits to each attendee that would allow them to perform the activity with 30 more students in their home region.

Gloria Putnam, of Eastman Kodak and the SPIE Board of Directors, capped off the afternoon with a talk on the circuitous path of her career and the importance of networking.
Students attending the Scholarship reception pose for a group photo. (Left to Right) Vladimir Militsin, Elizaveta Yankovskaya, Yaroslav Filipov, Galyna Gaivoronska, Yevheniya Uschenko, Jijo Ulahannan, Rostyslav Bilyy, Balpreet Alhuwalia, Yana Izdebskaya, Angelika Luchenko, Ruslan Kobzarenko, Anna Gavrilova, Prof. Leonid Poperenko, Evgeniya Serova, and Natalia Lisitsyna.
Representing the SPIE Student Chapter at the Institute for Atmospheric Optics in Tomsk, Russia, Natalia Sudarchikova stands with her poster.Students also appeared in force on the floor of the O&P exhibit hall. Seventeen student chapters brought posters and display items to showcase the activities of their chapter through the past year. As part of the "Eye to the Future" section, students divided their time between exploring the exhibit hall to chat with vendors and chatting with visitors at their own displays.

Jijo Ulahannan, Jang Pyo Kim, and Galyna Gaivoronska pose at the banner for that student section of the exhibit hall.

Science, outreach, exhibits, and committee work were not the only attractive parts of a visit to San Diego, as students found time to enjoy Coronado beach.
Sun, sand, warm water, blue sky... and optical engineers?

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