Optics & photonics are important areas in which there is a growing national need for work-force development. A challenge is that many undergraduate schools are focused on traditional science and engineering curricula, to the extent that their students may not be fully aware of the opportunities for pursuing a career in optics & photonics. This grant will provide support for an Optics & Photonics Winter School and Workshop to be held at the College of Optical Sciences in Tucson, AZ from January 4-7, 2017. The Optics & Photonics Winter School and Workshop will be aimed at promoting, supporting, and strengthening optics & photonics education and research in the United States. The Optics & Photonics Winter School (January 4-5) will give undergraduate students an overview of key and foundational areas of optics and photonics, and how they are intimately related to specific fields of research, in hopes of encouraging more undergraduate students to pursue a career in those fields. The Optics & Photonics Workshop (January 6-7) will provide a forum for undergraduate students and faculty members to share and/or learn of research and educational activities in optical sciences taking place at undergraduate institutions as well as broaden their awareness of career opportunities in the field. We request partial support from the NSF in the amount of $15k. The expected impact of Optics & Photonics Winter School and Workshop falls in several areas. First and foremost, the event will promote and enhance optics and photonics education at the undergraduate level, thus encouraging more students to pursue a career in this area and making transparent the advantages of a graduate level education in an optics program. Secondly, the workshop provides faculty and students from primarily undergraduate institutes (PUI) with the opportunity to network with colleagues at similar undergraduate institutes, and with attendees from larger graduate schools and from the photonics industry. As a result, PUI faculty and students will become more effective ambassadors for the field of optics in general, and better positioned to encourage the pursuit of graduate level optics & photonics education. This ultimately results in a stronger and more highly skilled workforce in optics and photonics to address the technological and scientific needs of our society.
The inaugural Optics and Photonics Winter School and Workshop ran January 8-14, 2016, thanks to support provided by the NSF. Feedback from participants was very positive. For the Optics and Photonics Winter School and Workshop in 2017, an external advisory committee will be formed consisting of select PUI faculty who attended the inaugural event of 2016. This will enable guidance from a broader community of people who are keenly aware of the challenges and need for optics education at the undergraduate level, and who have additional contacts in such communities. Together, the local organizers and external advisory committee will seek out a diverse group of PUI faculty to attend the 2017 workshop based on: i) experience and expertise with optics education at the undergraduate level, and/or ii) interest in improving or introducing optics and photonics education at their home institution. A special effort will be made to ensure participation from PUIs with strong female and/or minority presence. Student nominees will be solicited from the group of invited faculty, as well as by direct advertising and outreach to a broad range of PUIs. The PIs of this proposal will serve as the organizing committee, in charge of the educational and scientific program, and responsible for selecting the core group of participants to whom financial support will be offered. This will again be publically advertised through the COS web page.