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LaserFest 2010 Avoid Exposure to Beam
by By Christopher W. Maloney, Roberts Wesleyan College & Rochester Institute of Technology [an error occurred while processing this directive]
Frontiers in Optics 2010/Laser Science XXVI and the 2010 Industrial Physics Forum  
NASA Goddard’s James Abshire (left) with SPS reporter Chris Maloney.  

A 70 degree rainy day is a classic case of the unpredictable October weather in Rochester, NY. By the end of the week the temperature had dropped 20 degrees. This uncertain weather kept most of the attendees inside of the Rochester Riverside Convention Center and involved in the joint Frontiers in Optics 2010/Laser Science XXVI conference.

This meeting was an interesting opportunity for me, as it directly relates to my double major in physics and microelectronic engineering. Currently, I am on an engineering co-op with the Rochester Imaging Detector Lab. The lab’s director, Donald F. Figer, presented on future detectors for astrophotonics at the conference. As a member of his lab, detectors are also of interest to me; the talks about lidar (Light Detection and Ranging) piqued my interest in this conference and was a major reason for my attendance.

The first session of the conference was a talk by the winner of the APS Arthur L. Schawlow Prize in Laser Science, Henry C. Kapteyn of JILA, University of Colorado. The lecture for this prize-winning research was titled Attosecond Light and Science at the Time-scale of the Electron. It was a bit overwhelming when I first walked into the Lilac Ballroom; I did not expect such a large showing (2000 attendees), this being my first technical conference. The talk was about using high harmonic generation to produce ultrafast coherent beams extending into the soft x-ray regime. Applications for this type of laser include molecular and material dynamics. This presentation was visually appealing as it featured a video with rotating views of a biological cell that was generated using this new type of imaging.

The Industrial Physics Forum (IPF) was a set of sessions, jointly organized by the American Institute of Physics and the Optical Society on the industrial applications of physics, in this case optical physics.  The Environmental Applications of Lasers portion of the IPF featured an invited talk by James B. Abshire from NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, NASA’s Space Lidar Measurements of Earth and Planetary Surfaces. This gave an overview of past, present and future applications for using space lidar for measurements of planetary surfaces. The majority of these applications use laser altimetry to build a topographical map of anything from the surface of Mars to arctic ice sheets. After the talk I was able to sit down with Abshire for a brief interview.

Dr. Abshire began his education at the University of Tennessee as an electrical engineering student, and was able to obtain a co-op job with NASA Goddard. Like any physics or engineering student, working for NASA was something he had always wanted to do. The co-op program at the University of Tennessee gave him the means to find a job that is interesting and that he can be passionate about. Participating in a program like this is something he suggests to any and all students.

Frontiers in Optics 2010/Laser Science XXVI and the 2010 Industrial Physics Forum  
A view of the Rochester aqueduct from a balcony at the Rochester Riverside Convention Center.  

The Industrial Physics Forum Corporate Reception was held on Tuesday, October 26. At this function, industrial researchers were able to meet with students and discuss how research and development occurs at large corporations. These discussions took place as hors d’oeuvres and drinks were being served. One of the leading researchers that I spoke with was James Hollenhorst, Senior Director of Technology at Agilent Technologies. He told me the story of how the optical mouse came into production at HP Labs. In addition, he encouraged me to try to get into bio-medical research. This is one of the up-and-coming areas of research, and there are many unexplored topics. The reception served as a great place to network and to hear firsthand how research and development is done in industry. 

The next Frontiers in Optics conference will be October 16-20, 2011 in San Jose, CA. This conference is one that I would suggest that any SPS student attend. It is a great place for networking, and to hear about interesting cutting edge research. If I have the opportunity to attend the 2011 conference in San Jose, CA, I will definitely be there. Some advice to undergraduate students--get out and attend events like this, you never know who you will meet and what opportunities will arise.

Free 1-Year Membership in OSA
When you join SPS national as an undergraduate, you get free one-year membership in one of ten other physics societies, including the Optical Society of American (OSA). OSA promotes the generation, application and archiving of knowledge in optics and photonics.

SPS Reporter Program
SPS national sends student reporters to most major AIP Member Society meetings, where they are treated like other members of the press. Many ambitious student reporters succeed in securing interviews with society leadership and prominent invited speakers on such occasions.

SPS Travel Awards
A limited number of grants, on the order of $200 each, are offered to help fund SPS members' travel to national meetings of AIP Member Societies holding a "SPS Session" co-organized by SPS and the Member Society.

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