Being part of something bigger

01 January 2024
By Jennifer Barton

Throughout my career as a biomedical optics engineer, and in my current role as director of a research institute, I have seen firsthand the global impact that optics and photonics have as an enabling technology. Whether it's the earlier diagnoses of life-threatening cancers or connecting families over the internet, light-based technologies are a critical piece in improving our lives. As I begin my term as SPIE President, I see a similar global impact from our Society as we work to serve Members worldwide while also playing a part of improving the future of optics and photonics.

I have been a member of SPIE for more than 25 years and joined first as a PhD student, excited about being a part of a community larger than the one I knew from my research and studies at the University of Texas. I am happy to say that the community I have met with and experienced  since then has more than exceeded anything I thought possible. I have interacted with international collaborators and friends, traveled globally, been inspired countless times, and have even been humbled once or twice. SPIE is truly an international organization full of diverse and generous researchers, engineers, businesspeople, and students, all making the world better with light.

With this, my first President’s Letter, SPIE has more than 24,000 members representing more than 140 countries. In addition, the global constituency, including all nonmember customers, authors, exhibitors, and volunteers, reaches more than 250,000 people.

SPIE Photonics West, the Society’s flagship event, is perhaps the best example of the international scope of the photonics industry, with more than 22,000 attendees coming to San Francisco from around the world. The exhibition has companies representing more than 50 countries, including 12 international pavilions where companies from a country or region are clustered to showcase the collective strength of a locale’s photonics industry. As a former symposium chair for BiOS, I am always amazed by the breadth of innovative research presented in the conference rooms. I am equally amazed by the range of experiences and ideas from the diverse group of presenters and attendees. New solutions and approaches are often found when people from disparate backgrounds and experiences can meet and discuss problems from different perspectives.

Aiding in the growth of photonics internationally, the SHARE (SPIE Helping Advance Research Everywhere) program provides researchers in World Bank-designated low-income countries free access to the SPIE Digital Library. Since its launch in October 2020, researchers from 112 countries have downloaded more than one million papers, and in 2023, nearly 350,000 papers were downloaded. Each download represents the introduction or furthering of an individual’s research and potential career in optics and photonics. As my first SPIE event introduced me to this wonderful community, I imagine these researchers are also excited about being part of something bigger. One day, they will be at an SPIE conference, bringing their unique and valuable experiences and ideas to our global optics and photonics community.




Jennifer Barton

2024 SPIE President


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