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First North American Summer School on Photonic Materials

A Summer School Entirely Devoted to Photonic Materials

From June 16th to the 21st, the Centre for Optics, Photonics and Lasers (COPL) at Université Laval, in Quebec City, Canada, hosted the first North American Summer School on Photonic Materials.

The School was organized under the auspices of the International Commission on Glass (ICG), a not-for-profit society that promotes collaboration between experts in glass science and technology worldwide.

With 80 participants from 13 different countries, this international training initiative was co-chaired by Younès Messaddeq who holds the Canada Excellence Research in Photonic Innovation at Université Laval, and Kathleen Richardson, Pegasus Professor of Optics and Materials Science and Engineering at the College of Optics and Photonics at the University of Central Florida (UCF).

The participants are graduate students and early career scientists. The school combines morning lectures given by some twenty recognized scientists and afternoon laboratory projects carried out within COPL's research infrastructure. In fact, the critical mass of expertise at the COPL and the exceptional quality of their facilities have made it possible to hold such a training activity on the campus of Université Laval.

In spite of the strong role of photonic materials in everyday life there are limited educational opportunities available for students to learn the subject of Photonic Materials at a sufficiently advanced level.  Key to this short coming is the lack of blended instruction (that links optics and materials science disciplines) while providing both tutorial lecture based presentations with reinforcing lab-based exercises. This void in academic preparation limits multidisciplinary breakthroughs that advance the state of art in photonic material R&D. The inaugural North American Summer School on Photonic Materials (NASSPM) held from 16-21 June 2019, aimed to bridge this disconnect, filling the void in the training of advanced undergraduate and graduate students in materials science and engineering, and postdocs engaged in related research. The one-week long lecture and laboratory-based School hosted 80 participants from around the world on the campus of Laval University, at the Centre d'Optique, Photonique et Laser (COPL) in Quebec City, Canada. Through funding from public (US and Canadian government and university) and private corporate, professional society and foundational) sources, all participants received some form of support allowing them to attend.  

Background and outcomes

The idea of a Summer School on Photonic and Optical Materials has been floating within the glass community for over a year. It became definitive when the newly elected President of the International Commission on Glass (ICG), Prof. Alicia Durán, met at the last meeting of Glass and Optical Materials Division of American Ceramic Society held in San Antonio, TX in May 2018.  President Durán expressed interest in such a school based on her experience with prior ICG Schools and felt it was long overdue that a topical meeting supporting the North American membership be held.   Other ICG schools have been held in other geographic locations, including the most recent of the now annual schools:

10th ICG Montpellier summer school, on Glass Formation, Structure, and Properties; Bio Glass / Pharma Glass, 2-6th July 2018. Montpellier, France

4th Wuhan Winter School 2018 on Glass Formation, Structure, Properties; Glasses for Nuclear Waste Immobilization, 4th-10th November, 2018. Wuhan, China,

The initial discussion led to the formation of what became the Organizing Committee of the School tasked with making the effort a reality.

Each member of the Organizing Committee brings complementary expertise:

-  Prof. Himanshu Jain, is a glass scientist who initiated the concept of this type of schools starting with US-Japan Winter School in 2008, and through the previously funded NSF-IMI in New Functionality of Glass;

- Prof. Kathleen Richardson is a Past President of the American Ceramic Society with active research program on the optical applications of glass. She takes part of the Advisory committee of ICG and participates in its TC23 dedicated to Education and Training. She with support from the Laval team coordinated the massive fund raising effort.

-  Prof. Younes Messaddeq, the local organizer, leads one of the largest research centers on optical and photonic glass in the world as part of his Sentinel Nord program at Laval; and

-  Prof. Alicia Durán, an international leader of glass science and education, current President of ICG, who has been highly active in the organization of recent ICG Schools.

The members organizing committee coordinated all aspects of the School including technical topics, potential speakers, sponsorship and fund raising from companies.  Thus by late summer 2018, the concept for an inaugural school in North America, focusing on photonic materials (NASSPM), was born.

The NASSPM's objective was to provide attendees with intellectual contributions most directly by integrating five complementary aspects of photonic and optical materials in the training of young researchers. These include:

1.            Scope of optical materials;

2.            Properties and characterization of photonic materials;

3.            Fibers and fiber-based photonic systems;

4.            Advanced materials for system applications, especially planar photonic materials; and

5.            Outlook for photonic materials, especially in relation the needs of next generation photonic technology needs.

Tutorial lectures (including aspects of laboratory safety) on the above topics were taught by 22 international experts from Canada, France, Germany, Japan, Spain and USA, who introduced the participants to cutting edge advancements as well as practical perspectives of the industry. Furthermore, the School provided young research participants with 20+ hours of hands-on practical laboratory experience in projects related to the making and characterization of photonic materials.  The outcome of these projects were reported in 15 min oral presentations by the team in an afternoon session that closed out the School from which, a best project report prize sponsored by Sentinel Nord, was presented to two teams.

While useful in providing students with key concepts learned from lectures, attendees at the Montpellier and Wuhan schools noted above, did not realize any hands-on laboratory experience to reinforce the concepts of lectures, needed to illustrate examples of concepts.  Through the use of state-of-the-art instrumentation and facilities at Laval, attendees were exposed to both tutorials and reinforcing lab experiences. Hence, the proposed School, the first of its kind, where the areas of photonics and optical materials highlighted:

-              an interdisciplinary approach with global perspectives from international lecturers

-              parallel, lab-based projects where students will work on well-defined project topics as a team, and

-              team-based research project experience such as found in industry, as part of an international team with a senior (post doc/young professional) mentor,

-              the opportunity to present findings from their 4 day, 20+ hr project work including problem outcomes, at an Industry day session, where they will be exposed to and receive feedback from, Industry and University colleagues.

Recruitment plan for speakers and students

The selection of the speakers i.e., the lecturers for the school began after setting the broad scope of the School followed by topical areas. Candidate lecturers were contacted and upon their agreement, were asked to deliver a set lecture (with defined scope and duration) as well as read-ahead materials, questions with answers for Laval students taking the course for academic credit. 

Students were selected following an extensive multi-month advertising process.  This process included web-based advertisement based at Laval (www.nasspm.org), through other partner organizations (including the American Ceramic Society and the Optical Society of America),  and through highlighting the meeting at other events (national/international meetings in materials, optics and lasers).   A special effort was made to ensure again, diversity in the geographic home of the students, their level (graduate students, young researchers and in special cases, senior undergraduates with prior research experience). 

Sponsorship support to offset student costs

Significant fund raising was carried out to enable attendance at the School.  This was carried out by organizers with the goal of providing ‘local' sponsorship from organizations within the student's home country.   Local costs, in the form of a $330 CAD registration fee paid by attendees, provided students with daily lunch, coffee break snacks and partial costs for laboratory supplies.  Students paid their own airfare, visa application costs and housing.  Considerable invest from the host institution offset many of the large ticket items required to coordinate oversight of laboratory and administrative activities.

Student projects, evaluation and final reporting

All students participated in a group laboratory project.  Students were required to submit a one page (written) project summary (to receive their final participant certificate) and to present as a team a 15 minutes oral presentation.  These presentations were high level, illustrating the student's backgrounds, goals of the effort, and outcomes during the School's final afternoon session on Friday.  As the projects were varied in topic area, efforts to diversify the teams (in level, background and gender) were made.  Project presentations were subjected to evaluation from by a 4-member jury (made up of speakers) who ranked the students for technical and professional skills.  Sentinel Nord (the Center of Excellence supporting the inter-disciplinary effort in Canada on Photonics in Energy, Environment and Medicine) generously awarded a best team award to (2) groups which tied in their team score totals.

Impact and development of a successful school

The broader impact of this one-week long inaugural summer school was that attendees were exposed to cutting edge topics in optical communications, components and systems for flat panel displays, lighting, defense, and photovoltaics that have transformed the way energy and optics are manipulated through the use of novel materials. The NASSPM aimed to educate attendees on how such impacts through the preparation and training of next generation of researchers who will then develop new materials and processes, could lead to advances in these technological area. The participants also had the opportunity to develop a sense of research approaches practiced by scientists in several countries beyond their own, in North America, Europe and Japan. The goal for the attendee cohort aimed for approximately half from US institutions, and the other from the rest of the world. All students were assessed for their comments/feedbacks on expectations and technical outcomes, as well as general attributes related to the logistics associated with the School. As an outcome as evidenced by the comments of these attendees, the School clearly met its objective of establishing an international community of young photonic materials scientists who will be prepared to collaborate and build careers while advancing the state of photonic and optical materials.

This NASSPM school has fulfilled a void in the geographical education events of ICG. North America is the third point after Montpellier and Wuhan, allowing ICG to enhance and widen the education effort and impact on glass training. ICG welcomes this wonderful initiative and hopes it is continued in next years.

Last Updated: 20/08/2019
Author: John Parker
Labels: Icg News
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