SPIE offers Child Care Grants

SPIE has created grants to give parents equal opportunity to attend its meetings
11 November 2019

SPIE Child Care Grants
One of the newest SPIE members (far right) attends a recent SPIE panel discussion.

When she was 3 months old, Neve Ardern Gayford, daughter of New Zealand's prime minister Jacinda Ardern, was said at the time to be the youngest person to ever attend the United Nations General Assembly in New York City. Neve sat in her father's lap, while her mom attended to business at the assembly.

"I have the ability to take my child to work, there's not many places you can do that, said Ardern in an interview with The Guardian. " I am not the gold standard for bringing up a child in this current environment because there are things about my circumstances that are not the same."

As many parents of young children well know, it can be difficult to carry on with normal life outside the home while also caring for those children. Traveling to meetings or conferences can present challenges. As part of SPIE's commitment to family-inclusive support, the Society has created grants to give parents equal opportunity to share their research at SPIE meetings.

The SPIE Childcare Grants are designed to supplement the cost of childcare for SPIE members who are registered to attend one of our annual meetings. Grants of up to $500 will be made in the form of reimbursements for expenses related to childcare of children under the age of 13 during the duration of the meeting. The grant can cover costs for childcare at the conference or at home.

Meeting a need
Francesca Rossi, a researcher at the Istituto di Fisica Applicata — CNR, used an SPIE Child Care Grant to take her 11-year-old daughter, Teresa, with her to the European Conferences on Biomedical Optics (ECBO) 2019.

"This kind of initiative is really helpful not only with new-borns or toddlers: having my daughter with me was important because ECBO is held in June, when school is out, and it is always a problem to manage this time. This was an opportunity for my daughter to see what I do when I attend conferences and to meet people from different countries and different cultures. I hope that these grants will be funded more in the future and that we can see parents with their kids at these events."

Michelle Henderson, Sales Account Manager at EMF Corp, is a mother of five who used the grant to help fund childcare at home while she attended Photonics West 2019.
"This is a huge help to me," says Henderson of the grant. "I'm really grateful to SPIE for understanding and appreciating the financial challenges attending these trade shows can be for working parents, especially for single-parent families!"

Michelle Povinelli, an associate professor at University of Southern California, is one of many who are happy about these grants. "It is vitally important for researchers with young children to be able to participate in the scientific community," says Povinelli. "For junior faculty on the tenure track in particular, there is an urgent need to promote and share results at conferences. This early-career period often coincides with the birth of young children. These grants will help ensure that parents can continue to travel to conferences during a vital period in their career development."

When Katie Schwertz, design engineer at Edmund Optics, posted about the childcare grants on LinkedIn, one of the first persons who commented was a colleague from graduate school who said she skipped quite a few conferences when she was in school because she couldn't afford childcare during those conferences. "I'm positive she's one of many in the same situation," says Schwertz. "Who knows what kind of connections, experiences, or opportunities she missed out on by not attending?"

Schwertz notes that conferences are a primary source of networking opportunities and information sharing within the industry. Lowering barriers for parents to participate can only have positive effects, both for the individual and for the larger optics community.

The application system for the 2020 SPIE event cycle is now open.

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