SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY EDUCATION: Highlighting the International OSA Network of Students (IONS)

Dec. 27, 2011
Launched in 2006, the International OSA Network of Students (IONS) provides OSA Student Chapter members with opportunities to present and hear cutting-edge scientific presentations, develop valuable contacts, tour international research centers, and expand their horizons by visiting and learning about optics research in other countries.

Spotlight on inspiring the next generation of scientists and business leaders.

Being part of a professional network is an important aspect of a career in academia or industry. Recognizing this fact, young scientists from across the globe have banded together in an extraordinary grassroots effort to create a networking platform and conference series for upcoming researchers in the field of optics and photonics. Launched in 2006, the International OSA Network of Students (IONS) provides OSA Student Chapter members with opportunities to present and hear cutting-edge scientific presentations, develop valuable contacts, tour international research centers, and expand their horizons by visiting and learning about optics research in other countries.

IONS' primary activity is the organization of in-person and online events that focus on information sharing and the exchange of ideas. Student-run conferences are held several times each year in countries worldwide. A typical IONS meeting lasts about three days and includes scientific talks by distinguished keynote speakers; dedicated scientific sessions, allowing the young participants to share and discuss their own research with peers; poster sessions; tours of local laboratories and companies; career development activities; industry/entrepreneurship talks; and, of course, social activities.

Since the program’s inception six years ago, 20 IONS meetings have been held around the world. In total, these events have benefited approximately 1,400 student attendees.

In 2011, five IONS conferences were held (Salamanca, Spain [April 2011]; Southampton, England [August 2011]; Stanford, CA, USA [October 2011]; Melbourne, Australia [November 2011]; and Delhi, India [December 2011]). Five conferences are planned for 2012, beginning with a meeting that will take place in Paris, France, from February 22–25.

IONS conference programs include both technical and professional development sessions. Expert speakers provide helpful advice on effective presentation delivery and scientific writing; leading industrial professionals provide guidance on entrepreneurship, commercialization, and patents. Also included are presentations that showcase ideas for Student Chapter activities such as on-campus recruiting events and youth education presentations and interactive demonstrations.

One of the most valuable skill sets the student leaders develop is in the area of conference organization and management. The IONS-Project structure reflects this by giving significant responsibility to the local student organizers who decide on the conference program, set up a budget, contact sponsors, invite plenary speakers, and advertise the conference. While working independently, these students are coached throughout the planning process by an Advisory Board, made up of representatives from local sponsoring societies and experienced IONS organizers, and an international coordination committee.

Thanks to sponsoring organizations such as the Optical Society of America (OSA) and the OSA Foundation (OSAF), IONS conferences receive substantial financial support. For example, the OSA and the OSAF provide funding for guest lecturers and special events, participant travel grants, publicity, and marketing. The OSA staff members are available throughout the process to help with administrative tasks as needed. Additional information about the IONS program is available online: www.osa.org/membership/student_services/ions/default.aspx.

The OSA Foundation (OSAF) was established in 2002 to support philanthropic activities that help further the Optical Society’s (OSA's) mission by concentrating its efforts on programs that advance youth science education, provide optics and photonics education to underserved populations, provide career and professional development resources, and support awards and honors that recognize technical and business excellence. The grants funded by the OSAF are made possible by the generous donations of its supporters, as well as the dollar-for-dollar match from the OSA. For more information, visit www.osa-foundation.org.

GRACE KLONOSKI
is the Senior Director, Foundation, Membership & Education Services for the Optical Society of America, 2010 Massachusetts Ave, NW, Washington, DC 20036; e-mail: [email protected]; www.osa-foundation.org.

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