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Farewell as President: Embarking on Past-President Journey

Rene Telescope

As I transition this New Year into the Past-President role for the IEEE Photonics Society, I’ve been asked to share one last brief executive summary of the Society’s activities over the last few months. 

The Society’s flagship conference, the IEEE Photonics Conference (IPC), took place in Orlando, Florida this past November with nearly 400 technical presentations programmed throughout the week, on 12 topics covering vast technical areas within the photonics community. Like IPC 2022, our first post-pandemic, in-person conference since 2019, the conference again saw nearly 525 participants and gained interest from sponsors and exhibitors alike. 

The “Photonics Industry Focus” programming included a career fair, product showcases, interactive panel sessions, lab tours of CREOL, and more. A hands-on workshop, ‘Photonic Design Automation: From Devices to Systems’ was sponsored by VPIphotonics offering lectures, guided demos, and independent work with 1-on-1 support. This new educational sponsorship model will greatly benefit the conference for years to come.

Honored to have presented Simon Poole, AO (left), at the IEEE Photonics Awards Banquet with the inaugural IEEE Photonics Industry Achievement Award. Poole also gave an invited “Photonics Industry Focus” talk, on “What they don’t teach you in start-up school: Mistakes, misunderstandings and the scramble for survival” during the conference week.

Our Mentor Match program paired over 100 mentees with mentors in their related technical areas of interest. Mentors and mentees were encouraged to meet at a special event, attend a technical session, connect at a special symposium, or informally meet over lunch.  Once again, this program proved to be a great success, growing networks and providing students/young professionals (SYPs) with invaluable feedback and encouragement.

Proud of the Society’s Mentor Match program and IEEE Photonics Fund that supports the travel and professional development of our IEEE Women in Photonics grantees (pictured here). 

On the quantum photonics side, the IEEE Photonics Society is a technical co-sponsor of the IEEE Quantum Week, a fast-growing quantum conference co-sponsored by ten IEEE Societies, and currently led by the IEEE Computer Society. The conference’s focus revolves around quantum computing but is expanding in other quantum areas, in particular quantum photonics. The 2024 edition will be held in Montréal, Canada, from September 15th through 20th, 2024 (, where the Society is leading a technical track and hopes to contribute to the growth of the conference’s exhibition. 

Last fall, the Board of Governors (BoG) of the Society also voted to join the IEEE Brain Initiative Community as an affiliate member. The main mission of this community is to unite engineering and computing expertise across IEEE in order to support the advancement of innovative technologies that improve our understanding of the brain. More details can be found here,

We are delighted to announce and welcome our new Publications Manager, Laura Lander, who joined the Society last October. Laura comes to us with a wealth of expertise. She has extensive hands-on management experience and insights into technical publishing, such as integrating publishing tools and technologies into our journals and keeping abreast of new system features. Laura will bring a welcoming fresh view to our publication portfolio strategy. We all look forward to working and learning from Laura. 

A new process, initiated at the IEEE level, was put in place in 2023 to form the Fellow Evaluation Committees of all IEEE Societies for the Fellow Class of 2025. The most immediate impact of the new process on our Society is the reduction in size of our Evaluation Committee to increase uniformity of Committees sizes across Societies. The nominations submission deadline was also moved up to an earlier date. For the Class of 2025, the deadline is coming soon, February 7th 2024.

Over the last year the Society has put an emphasis on leading and funding educational activities, resulting in the growth and development of over 140 initiatives at the international, regional, and sectional levels. This included the Diamond Sponsorship of IEEE Africon, in Kenya, and a Region 9 (Latin America) Student Branch Regional Meeting (SBRM), in Colombia. 

IEEE AFRICON is an IEEE Region 8 flagship conference for the continent of Africa, where an IEEE Photonics Society Special Symposium was led, including technical, professional, and entrepreneurship topics on: The Fiber Tech Evolution: Kenya’s 45-Year Journey, Building Photonics-based Solutions in Africa, and Photonics Applications within Industry & Research. Optics and photonics papers were adopted into the general conference’s tracks for the first time and will be published in IEEE Xplore. 

The Region 9 SBRM supported the professional development of 125+ IEEE student leaders from Colombia, Brazil, Peru, Ecuador, Chile, Argentina, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Uruguay, Venezuela, Bolivia, Paraguay, etc. The IEEE Photonics Society sponsored soft skills trainings, an “Iluminando el Futuro” volunteer STEM luncheon, and recruited over 65 new student members, who are involved with local sections eager to start new or joint technical chapters. 

As a President, I am delighted that our Society and the parent organization offers educational programs designed to inspire students as well as photonics professionals with the goal of advancing technology for humanity. (Top: IEEE Africon Volunteers; Bottom: Region 9 SBRM Student Leadership)

Finally as I mentioned, this marks my final quarterly message, as the President of the Society. I’m pleased to announce that Perry Shum, Southern University of Science and Technology (SUSTech), China, will be assuming the role of President for 2024 and 2025, and will be the new voice of this column. Reflecting on my tenure, a key insight I’ve gained is the indispensable role our volunteers play in maintaining the vitality and shaping the future of our Society.

Grateful to work alongside the Executive Director, Doug Razzano, current President, Perry Shum, and outgoing Past-President, Carmen Menoni, (pictured right to left) during my tenure as President from 2022-2023. 

As I transition to the role of Past-President for the 2024-2025 period, my focus will shift towards the Society’s overall strategic direction and leadership growth, with the goal of providing the best possible services and programs we can offer to our members and the community-at-large. 

I extend my warmest regards to every member of our Society. I’ve truly appreciated your invaluable support during my tenure. 


René-Jean Essiambre, President (2022-2023), IEEE Photonics Society