Newport/SPIE travel grants assist students

IRVINE, CA and BELLINGHAM, WA-For those of us fortunate enough to work in photonics companies with healthy travel budgets, attending industry conferences and meetings is often taken for granted.

IRVINE, CA and BELLINGHAM, WA-For those of us fortunate enough to work in photonics companies with healthy travel budgets, attending industry conferences and meetings is often taken for granted. Typically, our employer reimburses travel, hotel, meals, and all associated expenses. But for ‘starving’ students who have their technical papers accepted for presentation at major conferences, the student is forced to choose between footing the bill or not attending the conference at all. Fortunately, Newport Corporation (Irvine, CA), in partnership with The International Society for Optical Engineering (SPIE; Bellingham, WA), is changing this picture through its Newport and Spectra-Physics Research Excellence Travel Awards. Since the program began in 2004, The Newport grants have assisted more than 65 students from a dozen countries.

“Progress in science and engineering is not made by individuals-it takes great teams and sharing of ideas. The Newport travel grant makes it possible for outstanding students to embrace the community spirit of science and engineering at SPIE meetings, and to meet and learn from a wide range of professionals,” says Sandra Biedron, Chair of the 2006 SPIE Scholarships and Grants Committee and Director of the Office of Naval Research Projects at Argonne National Laboratory (near Chicago, IL).

The Travel Awards program was initiated in mid-2004 with a $10,000 grant from Newport for use at the two major conferences, Photonics West and Optics and Photonics. Newport increased the grant to $15,000 in 2006. At the 2006 Optics and Photonics Conference in San Diego, CA, this year’s winning students were honored in a short ceremony and received plaques from Gary Spiegel, Newport’s VP of Worldwide Sales and Service, and Jason Eichenholz, Newport’s director of strategic marketing for the Scientific Research Market. Eichenholz said, “At Newport we believe that today’s students will be the leaders in tomorrow’s photonics industry. We are very excited to continue this program with SPIE and provide funds for these annual awards, helping outstanding students travel to conferences that they might not otherwise have been able to attend.”

Because SPIE already offered the Student Travel Contingency Grants program (funded by SPIE at $30,000 annually), it worked well to add the Newport sponsorship funds into that existing program, bringing the total grant awards to $45,000 annually in 2006. Criteria for selection of the SPIE and Newport grants are the same: Applicants must be full-time students who are not also full-time employees in industry, government, or academia, they must be presenting an accepted paper at an SPIE-sponsored meeting, have one letter of recommendation from department head/advisor, and have written support from a chair (letter or email) of the conference in which the paper will be presented, indicating that the paper presentation is necessary to the conference’s success. To apply for an award, the student needs to submit a travel contingency application form (available at http://www.spie.org/community Services/StudentsAndEducators/pdfs/Student_Travel_Application.pdf) detailing need for funds no later than 10 weeks prior to the 1st day of the SPIE symposium to which they wish to travel.

The Travel Award judges are the conference chairs who must indicate in writing that the paper is a strong one and the student therefore worthy of support. Nearly 200 applications for student travel grants are received each year; any student who meets all of the criteria is offered a grant ranging from $200 to $1,000. In addition to the awards ceremony, Newport hosts a yearly gathering of all the student recipients so that they can network with one another and be introduced to Newport staff-making potentially valuable connections for the future.

-Gail Overton

More in Home