Frontiers in Optics races along

Nov. 1, 2009
SAN JOSE, CA--A highlight of OSA’s (Washington, DC) Annual Meeting, the Frontiers in Optics (FiO) conference and exhibition held in San Jose, CA from October 11–15, was the OSA Student Chapter solar car races (see complete story on page 3).

SAN JOSE, CA--A highlight of OSA’s (Washington, DC) Annual Meeting, the Frontiers in Optics (FiO) conference and exhibition held in San Jose, CA from October 11–15, was the OSA Student Chapter solar car races (see complete story on page 3). “In addition to sessions on 3-D display, supercomputing, and imaging at the nanoscale, green energy was also a central theme, with discussions of how to make integrated photonic circuits more environmentally friendly and the popular solar car races demonstrating solar-powered miniature cars for a captive audience,” said Colleen Morrison, director, media relations and government affairs for the OSA. “Attended by more than 1500 of the field’s leaders and with more than 40 companies participating in the exhibition, FiO 2009 provided the latest technical advances and networking opportunities. Compared to the 2007 event in San Jose, there was an 11% increase in attendance,” added Morrison.

Held each year and alternating between San Jose and Rochester, NY (which typically has higher attendance of around 2000), FiO always offers top-notch Plenary speakers. This year was no exception, with Andrea Ghez from the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) presenting “Unveiling a Supermassive Black Hole at the Center of our Galaxy,” and Janos Kirz from Lawrence Berkeley National Lab (LBNL; Berkeley, CA) discussing “X-Ray Microscopy.” Each presentation described the role that lasers and optics have in such diverse areas as astronomy and medicine--and how the “Frontier” of optics continues to grow at a rapid pace, despite the temporary economic glitch we are experiencing.

3-D emphasis

Television commercials are heavily promoting Disney’s “A Christmas Carol” for the holiday season, the latest 3-D cinema offering among several others in recent years. Once envisioned as “hype” by many technologists, 3-D technology is clearly here to stay, especially judging by the standing-room only crowds of optical engineers attending the Tuesday, October 13th day-long Symposium entitled “The Future of 3-D Display: The Marketplace and the Technology.”

Among the 3-D Symposium presentations was “What Should We Know about Human Depth Perception in Constructing 3-D Displays?” by Martin Banks from the University of California at Berkeley (Berkeley, CA). Banks’ very theoretical yet practical analysis of the 3-D or, as he calls it, “stereo display” viewing experience centered on human issues such as distortion, eye fatigue, and blurring of the image as a function of distance from and viewing angle in relation to the display. By conducting experiments on real people, his group at UC Berkeley discovered that while the brain can compensate for some distortions while sitting near the front and at very low incidence angles to a stereo display, the majority of the audience cannot. Banks says that display manufacturers need to take these issues into account during the design process in order that 3-D displays are successful, whether it’s 3-D cinema or viewing for a scientific purpose such as medicine or engineering visualization.

Additional 3-D Symposium presentations included “The Coming Generation of Head Worn Displays” from Kevin Thompson of Optical Research Associates (Pasadena, CA), describing his work with Jannick Rolland of the University of Rochester’s (Rochester, NY) Institute of Optics and “Large Area 3-D Updateable Holographic Displays Using Photorefractive Polymers” from Nasser Peyghambarian from the University of Arizona (Tucson, AZ).

Other special events

In addition to the emphasis on 3-D technology and “green” photonics, FiO also included several other timely symposia. “Gravitational Wave Interferometry from Earth and Space” spanned both Monday afternoon and Tuesday morning, with presentations from such esteemed groups as MIT, Caltech, University de Rennes (France), Laser Zentrum Hannover (Germany), and the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan. And perhaps nowhere else is the need for cutting-edge optics more competitive than for the applications described in the “Optics for Imaging at the Nanoscale and Beyond” Symposium. Held all day Thursday, this special symposium covered diffraction-limited X-ray optics, nano-tomography, intracellular nanoscale imaging with fluorescence, and multi-modal scanning X-ray microscopy.

Student participation

In addition to the solar car races, FiO included an OSA Young Professionals Networking Event with Corporate Members on Tuesday morning, allowing active OSA students to discuss career paths and practical career advice. I was surprised to see the amount of Internet traffic generated by OSA’s “Young Professional Bloggers,” who posted tweets at (enter #FiO and #FiO09) and blog entries at

According to KiKi L’Italien, chapter and student services manager at the OSA, three OSA Young Professionals covered FiO on their personal blogs: Adam Zysk, senior research associate in medical imaging at the Illinois Institute of Technology (; Bob Schoonover, an electrical engineering graduate student at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign (, and Shalin Mehta, a doctoral candidate in optical bio-imaging at the National University of Singapore Graduate School for Integrative Sciences & Engineering (

Make sure to attend Frontiers in Optics 2010 in Rochester, NY.

--Gail Overton

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