President's letter: Connecting minds

01 January 2022
By Anita Mahadevan-Jansen

How do you become the president of a technical society? And not just that, but an international organization that touches more than 250,000 people globally! On the one hand, I have no idea. However, I can share with you how I got here.

When I was a graduate student, Photonics West and SPIE were synonymous. I attended my first Photonics West in 1992 as a second-year PhD student to present my most recent work.

As it happened, attending my first Photonics West was one of the best decisions of my professional career. I walked into the meeting knowing just a handful of people and little else. In fact, I had walked into a new world.

Of course, I presented my talk at the meeting and received great feedback. But it was everything else at Photonics West that captivated me. As a shy young woman from India, I was not comfortable talking to strangers. And yet there I was talking to people from all over the world.

"Connecting Minds. Advancing Light." is the SPIE tag line. And the former is exactly what I experienced at my first Photonics West. Photonics West 2022 will be my 30th! Along the way, I have built my career in biophotonics and taken every opportunity for professional development that SPIE offers. I have presented papers, received an SPIE Travel Grant, attended Photonics Europe, organized a conference session, become a Lifetime Member of SPIE (it makes sense!), served on the SPIE BiOS conference program committee, started a new biomedical conference, become part of the group today known as Women in Optics, become an SPIE Fellow, and made friends who I would meet again each year at Photonics West.

In time, I got to know the SPIE staff and started to understand that there was more to SPIE than conferences. Wanting to know more, I served on a few SPIE committees to help guide the Society. Next thing I knew, I was elected to the Board of Directors, and with the help of all those friends and Members' votes, I was elected SPIE President. What a journey!

So how do you become the president of an international technical society? By becoming involved at every opportunity. You must also talk to people and listen, and truly care about others who are like you but also not. SPIE is about the people who have the vision of using optics and photonics to enhance our world. And it is up to you to take advantage of what the Society has to offer.

"It's a new dawn, it's a new day, it's a new life..." goes the song "Feeling Good." This pandemic has been difficult on all of us. And it seems this new way of living may be here to stay. So, we need to adjust. We are engineers, and scientists, and creative thinkers. But ultimately, we are people who like and need to connect with people. And as I step into the role of SPIE President, I want to help you connect. I consider myself the "Ambassador for SPIE," and over the course of this year, I plan to be available to the Members of the Society and to listen and learn. I would like to continue the work I helped start in equity, diversity, and inclusion.

I feel good about this new life and the new ways we need to find others to connect and collaborate. I guess I am a "glass-is-half-full" kind of person. And let me tell you—I am no longer shy. As those who know me will attest, I love talking to people. So next time you see me, please say "Hi, Hello, Namaste," and then let's shake hands, wave, fist/elbow bump to remind ourselves of what SPIE is about. Connecting Minds!

2022 SPIE President Anita Mahadevan Jansen

Anita Mahadevan-Jansen

2022 SPIE President

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