Photonex 2021: SPIE and Birmingham announce $800,000 photonics education fund

SPIE Optics and Photonics Champion Academy to develop leaders in research, mentorship, and science communication.

SPIE, the international society for optics and photonics, and the University of Birmingham have announced the establishment of the SPIE Optics and Photonics Champion Academy fund. The new endowment was announced at this week’s SPIE Photonex + Vacuum Technologies in Glasgow, Scotland.

The $400,000 gift from the SPIE Endowment Matching Program will be matched 100% by the university, and the $800,000 fund will create and support the SPIE Optics and Photonics Champion Academy.

The cohort-focused program will engage in areas of public interest in the fields of quantum technology and biomedical imaging and data sciences: one of the first projects will address pandemics. The program will be led by Professor and Principal Investigator of the UK Quantum Technology Hub Sensors and Timing Kai Bongs, and Professor of Computational Life Sciences Iain Styles.

Cross-disciplinary opportunities

The SPIE Optics and Photonics Champion Academy will support Birmingham students in a variety of ways which include expanding cross-disciplinary educational opportunities in optics and photonics; offering students hands-on support and training to become influential science communicators and advocates of optics and photonics. It will also utilize a range of stipends, awards, and activity grants, which will be supplemented with professional development and mentoring opportunities from the university’s academic leaders as well as from external experts.

The program will focus particularly on students in underrepresented groups, early-career researchers, and PhD students in order to establish and build a broad, diverse, and inclusive network of science advocates, especially in the area of optics and photonics.

We are delighted to be able to work with SPIE to launch this unique Academy at the University of Birmingham,” said Professor Bongs. “This initiative will help to accelerate the growth of optics and photonics expertise, which will have great impact far beyond the university. Our hope is to not only encourage this learning, but to also create awareness of the huge importance of this subject area in tackling real-world problems.”

By equipping early-career optics and photonics researchers and PhD students with skills in advanced data analysis, we will help to accelerate the translation of these exciting technologies from the laboratory to their adoption in real-world applications,” added Professor Styles.

Our SPIE Champions will be able to work with experts in diverse application areas such as healthcare and climate monitoring to develop end-to-end optics-based solutions with integrated analytics for some of our most pressing challenges.”

‘Pipeline of future scientists’

By offering direct, experiential training in quantum technology and biomedical imaging as well as highlighting various career options in the field, the SPIE Optics and Photonics Champion Academy will develop a natural pipeline of future professional scientists and engineers in these fields,” said SPIE President David Andrews.

By encouraging students to actively raise awareness of the impact of optics and photonics to their contemporaries, peers, and younger colleagues, the program will be creating visible, engaged role models for future generations.”

The SPIE Endowment Matching Program was established in 2019 to increase international capacity in the teaching and research of optics and photonics, and to date has given more than $3.4 million in matching gifts, resulting in more than $9 million in dedicated funds.

The Program supports optics and photonics education and the future of the industry by contributing a match of up to $500,000 per award to college and university programs with optics and photonics degrees, or with other disciplines allied to the SPIE mission.