Wednesday, May 30, 2012

SPIE and OSA cooperate on optics education

In the April print issue of Laser Focus World, our feature article entitled "How to begin a career in photonics" erroneously stated that the Optics and Photonics Education Directory at was from the Optical Society (OSA; Washington, DC). Unfortunately, that information was not correct (my apologies again for the error); indeed, the Optics and Photonics Education Directory--as corrected in the online version of the magazine article--is a joint public service effort by both SPIE (Bellingham, WA) and OSA. In fact, as I learned in the weeks following the release of our April issue from Krisinda Plenkovich, SPIE Education and Community Service director, SPIE actually initiated the directory back in the mid 1980s.

SPIE staff member Rich Donnelly--who still works for SPIE as SPIE Newsroom managing editor--used to get many inquiries about optics programs, so he decided to start publishing a list in the Optics in Education portion of SPIE's then tabloid Optical Engineering Reports. The first edition of the list was printed in 1985-86 and had 26 listings across North America. In 1990, the list became global and evolved into the booklet format that is used today.

But in 2001, SPIE's Education Committee and OSA's Membership & Education Services (MES) Council determined that education was one of the areas where cooperation between the two societies could benefit the entire community and the Optics Education Directory was seen as a vehicle where that cooperation could be especially productive. Consequently, it was decided at the time that SPIE would provide OSA with the content it had been using to produce a print version of the directory and OSA would utilize that information t to create an online version.

This cooperation resulted in the co-branding of the Optics and Photonics Education Directory with OSA. Today, a memorandum of understanding (MOU) exists between SPIE and OSA to define the joint collaboration and sponsorship of the Optics and Photonics Education Directory. In short, SPIE is responsible for managing the print version of the Directory--4500 copies of which were distributed in 2011 to libraries and academic institutions throughout the world (in more than 220 different countries). And OSA is responsible for updating the online version of the Directory, from which the print version content is generated. According to Kathryn Amatrudo, OSA's deputy senior director of Membership and Education, the online Directory receives thousands of visits each month.

When writing the April photonics education article, the Optics and Photonics Education Directory was indispensable for my research on just how many academic institutions exist for our students, what the entry criteria are, how large the student population is at the various institutions, what type of curriculum is offered, and of primary importance, a personal contact at the institution that is available to answer any questions students may pose. With more than 350 international listings, students considering a career in photonics have an excellent photonics education resource at their fingertips, or at the click of a mouse. Courtesy SPIE and OSA, the Optics and Photonics Education Directory is the go-to resource for aspiring photonics students and graduates of the future.

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