Recently, our graduate student Mr. Michael J. Williams was invited by SPIE to join them in the National Photonics Initiative (NPI), which involved visiting US Congressional offices in Washington, DC, to urge support for measures to strengthen America’s ability to compete in the world photonics industry. SPIE awarded him with a $ 500 travel grant to visit Washington DC on September 9-10, 2015.
Mr. Williams joined volunteers from SPIE and OSA in the NPI.
He was paired with two optics professors from Michigan and they went to both the Michigan and Delaware senators and House representatives. Here is what Michael says about the experience:
It was very interesting to learn how to bring forth language on optics and photonics while simultaneously avoiding the inference that the congressional staff may not be learned about the photonic world and its modern-day applications in technology they use every day. I was able to bring forth a tangible approach to the issue, in regards to opening new horizons to students who have never even thought a career choice in optics was possible. I, being from North Philadelphia, was able to really dive into my love for science in general at the Franklin Institute Science Museum in Philadelphia as a volunteer-later employee as well as being an alumnus of a science program geared towards inner-city high school kids called the PACTS program (Partnership for Achieving Careers in Technology and Science). That program exposed me to various fields of science that I had never seen before as a child and thus created the desire to study physics as a career. What this experience showed me was the details behind science policy and about actually being a connector for the Congress to down-to-earth real-life events regarding optics research and the need for direct funding in order to achieve our purpose of producing cutting-edge, competitive-edge work and results.
The link to the event could be found on SPIE webpage: http://spie.org/x115488.xml