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IEEE Photonics Travel Grantees’ Reflections on IEEE SUMMER TOPICALS 2023

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Hui Jing Lee (Universiti Tenaga Nasional)

Hui Jing Lee (Universiti Tenaga Nasional)

This year, the IEEE Photonics Society Summer Topicals Meeting Series 2023 (IEE SUM 2023) was held from the 17th to 19th of July 2023 in Sicily (Italy), a beautiful island located in the Mediterranean Sea! As part of the IEEE Women in Photonics Travel Grantees to attend the esteemed conference with other attendees, I felt extremely honored and grateful for the opportunity given by the IEEE Photonics Society.

Over 200 participants who attended the conference were truly excited to present their work, exchange ideas and contacts, also put the research bond together. Blending in with other travel grantees and conference attendees, we had a great and fruitful networking session with other speakers attending the IEEE SUM 2023 during the Sunday evening social and welcome reception held on the first day of the conference.

Not to mention, the presentation and speeches from the distinguished keynote and invited speakers sparked some inspiration and interest among the attendees.  This year’s theme included an array of interesting technical topics with six different tracks such as Fiber Sensing using Deployed Telecom Networks, Multimode Nonlinear Photonics, Parallelization and Inversion in Network Technologies, Quantum and Cryogenic Photonics, Where Photonics Meets Computing: From Devices to Applications, and lastly Visible Light Integrated Photonics and Application to Atomic and Quantum Sensing, Communications, and Computing. It was definitely a great and valuable learning experience for me, much benefiting from the technical sessions!

Attending presentation session during IEEE SUM 2023.

IEEE SUM 2023 offered a unique and interactive platform for the mentor-mentee matching program, where students and professionals working in the same area were paired to discuss and exchange ideas. My mentor, Franklyn Quinlan was very kind enough to share his insightful knowledge and career experiences with me during the session. He is currently a physicist from the Precision Photonic Synthesis Group in the Time and Frequency Division at National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), United States. Franklyn Quinlan inspired me with his research journey and experiences, especially in the field of ultra-stable lasers, ultrafast optics, and microwave photonics. He also shared the importance of continuous encouragement and career satisfaction in both the learning process and research journey. I am grateful for the great piece of advice from Franklyn Quinlan and hope to cross paths in the near future.

Mentor-mentee match session with mentor, Franklyn Quinlan from NIST, United States.

Attending the IEEE SUM 2023 will remain a fond memory not only because of the people I met during the conference but also the beautiful places in Sicily, Italy. Aside from meeting new friends and gaining new knowledge during the conference, I have also grabbed the opportunity to visit downtown Catania and Taormina, a hilltop town located on the east coast of Sicily, with an ancient Greek theater overlooking Mount Etna. The panoramic view is stunning and breathtaking. Not to forget, I have also tried out the scrumptious gelato, pizza, and pasta! Once again, thank you IEEE Photonics Society for the wonderful learning experience in IEEE SUM 2023.

Greek theater overlooking Mount Etna.

Collins Okon Edet (Universiti Malaysia Perlis)

Collins Okon Edet (Universiti Malaysia Perlis)

I’m a Graduate Research Assistant at the Institute of Engineering Mathematics, Universiti Malaysia Perlis in MALAYSIA. My research broadly focuses on quantum effects in hybrid quantum systems like optomechanics and magnomechanics. I am interested in exploiting these systems for quantum technologies applications such as quantum thermal devices, quantum information processing, etc.

IEEE Photonics Society Summer Tropic Meeting Series 2023 was an enlightening experience that profoundly impacted my research journey: the presentations, particularly those by Profs. Marina Radulaski and Ania Jayich provided invaluable insights into critical areas I had previously struggled with. Ania Jayich’s talk on “Hybrid spin-phonon systems in diamond” struck a chord with me. Following her presentation, I had the privilege of a one-on-one interaction. Her recommended resources and advice have significantly enhanced my understanding of my current research.

One of the standout moments for me was the Mentor-Mentee program. I had the honor of being paired with two distinguished professors, Marek Osinski, and Paolo Villoresi. Their guidance and career advice have been particularly beneficial, especially as I draft my professional development plan. Paolo shared several research ideas with me and even pointed me to technical sessions that were beneficial to my research. Marek facilitated my meeting with Ania Jayich; this gesture touched me deeply as it exemplified his commitment to my growth. I am inspired to pay this forward by supporting younger members of the IEEE Photonics Society.

The conference provided a unique opportunity to connect with colleagues from diverse cultures. Meeting individuals like Karolina from Poland, Eve-Line from France, Rui Fang from the UK, Kanishk and Sanjana from India, Jing from Malaysia, Connor from Canada, Margareta from Austria, Pedro from Italy, and Reinhardt from Germany expanded my perspective. Engaging in discussions about research experiences, challenges, and coping strategies highlighted the commonality of our struggles. These interactions extended beyond academic discourse, encompassing shared experiences of embracing Italian cuisine and exploring the Greek Theatre in Taormina and Isola Bella with Reinhardt. 

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Collins with student peers and Photonics Society staff at SUM 2023

I sincerely appreciate the IEEE Photonics Society for providing travel grant funding, which made this incredible learning and networking experience possible. Grazie Mille. It has been transformative for both my PhD research and personal growth. 

Connor Rowe (INRS, Canada)

Connor Rowe
Connor Rowe (INRS, Canada)

I am currently a Master’s student beginning my Ph.D. in the fall in the domain of ultrafast optical signal processing. This year at IEEE SUM 2023, I presented my work on a new way to recover complex communications signals using time and frequency analysis. My favorite part about IEEE SUM is the one-on-one access to the world leaders in photonics. I had so many interesting conversations getting their opinions on all aspects of science from publishing papers to applying for grants. I got to hear contrasting opinions on new theories, and insights on storied careers and received advice about my own research and future. I am so grateful for the time offered freely by the attending professors and researchers to mentor me. This has already made such an incredible impact in my path so far and it is indispensable as I approach the next big crossroads in my career. The honor of being a travel grantee named alongside a set of such inspiring and motivated students is one I will carry with me for a lifetime. Overall, the IEEE SUM is one of the most impactful, productive, and fun conferences a student can experience!


Reinhardt Rading (Universitat Hamburg, Germany)

Reinhardt Rading
Reinhardt Rading (Universitat Hamburg, Germany)

I’m a Research Associate at the Helmut-Schmidt-Universität der Bundeswehr in Hamburg, working on applications of photonics in sensors, communications, defense, and space exploration. I’m currently working on the development of low-noise distributed fiber-optic sensors that can be used to cancel Newtonian noise and monitor the environmental conditions that are essential for the optimal operation of third-generation gravitational wave detectors, such as the Einstein telescope.

IEEE SUM 2023 proved to be an invaluable experience as it allowed me to finally meet and interact with some of the best researchers in the field of optical communications and sensing, such as Chiara, Mazur, Antonelli, just to name a few. Meeting and networking with them was an enlightening experience as I was able to learn about their cutting-edge projects and gain new perspectives.

The Mentor-Mentee initiative offered by the IEEE Photonic Society has been invaluable to my growth. Through this program, I was privileged to be paired with two exceptional individuals, Ettore and Mazur, each from different professional backgrounds. As fiber optic sensing is an emerging field, I have been enriched with immeasurable insights from an exceptional geophysicist and a phenomenal photonics expert. As I embark on the journey of developing innovative optical sensors, I look forward to their continued guidance and valuable perspectives.

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Reinhardt with other travel grantees and student peers at SUM 2023.

Meeting fellows from diverse backgrounds, such as Connor from Canada, Collin from Malaysia, Florian from Austria, and Karolina from France, was an excellent opportunity for me. Listening to their experiences in pursuing their Ph.D., their encounters in the lab, and their challenges in learning new languages and adapting to new cities, including trying different cuisines and tasting Italian delicacies during a scorching Sicilian summer, was truly captivating. Interacting with them allowed me to delve into fascinating topics and gain new perspectives on different areas of photonics. This enriching learning experience has undoubtedly deepened my understanding of the field. I am very grateful to the IEEE Photonics Society for the support and travel grant that made this valuable experience possible.

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Photo of Reinhardt visiting Mt. Etna in Sicily

Florian Honz (AIT – Austrian Institute of Technology)

Florian Honz (AIT – Austrian Institute of Technology)

My name is Florian Honz and I am a PhD student at the AIT Austrian Institute of Technology. The focus of my research is centered on the boundary of classical and quantum communications and ranges from the fab to the app. The IEEE Summer Topicals 2023 offered a high degree of distinguished speakers in these fields, paired with a similarly high degree of soaring heat. 

My personal conference experience started with the mentor-mentee meetup at the Happy Hour, offering not only refreshments to address the undeniably strong taste of summer; but also offered useful hints on career development and professional network expansion, shared by established scientists for the aspiring scientists of the “next” generation. 

Florian Honz presenting at IEEE SUM 2023

Thanks to the IEEE Summer Topicals with its characteristic flavor of a more intimate and yet stimulating environment, far off the busy show floors, it was easy for us students to get in touch with leading experts in the field. This gave us the unique opportunity to interrogate them not only on specific technical details but also on practical advice for the years that follow the life of a Ph.D. student. 

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View from hotel

For me, the key to being able to attend the Summer Topicals in the first place was to apply for and be awarded a SUM 2023 travel grant. Once in Sicily, I also got the chance to meet up with my fellow travel grant winners, making contacts around the world. To sum up, I am really grateful for the experiences and knowledge I was able to gain, thanks to the IEEE Photonics Society. I can only encourage everyone who is interested to visit Summer Topicals in the future and to profit from the vibrant and fruitful atmosphere it provides!