The 2021 conference season is here and as in 2020 our conferences are going virtual. The decision to use a virtual platform was not an easy one. However, due to existing travel restrictions the IEEE Photonics Society decided to offer all of its 2021 conferences a virtual format option again this year; similarly for our co owned conferences, the conference on Lasers and Electro-Optics (CLEO 2021) and the Optical Fiber Conference (OFC 2021). Virtual platforms do come with benefits, such as offering flexibility in participation and increasing technical breadth.

For example, the 2021 IEEE Photonics Conference, scheduled for October 2021, has been streamlined to 12 subject categories to focus on technology-driven and application-focused topics. A newly combined topical area of “Microwave Photonics & Avionics/Vehicle Fiber-Optics & Photonics” will be featured. New Special Symposia have also been introduced on: Deep Tissue Imaging and Quantum Sensing; Machine Learning and Photonics; and Ultrafast Mid-infrared Laser Sources and Applications. The goal of the symposia is to showcase vast, cross disciplinary topics and promising new technical approaches that are of interest to our members.

The Plenary Speakers this year will be: Sir John Pendry of Imperial College London, Paul Prucnal of Princeton University, Hui Cao of Yale University, Hong Hou of Intel. We greatly look forward to their talks, which address some of the most complex technologies in the photonics field: the study of metamaterials on to structures that vary in time and space; neuromorphic photonics, optical code division multiple access; terahertz optical asymmetric demultiplexing; nanophotonics; biophotonics; and silicon photonics.

The conference has made significant changes to its registration costs that will offer free registration to IEEE Photonics Society student members, and significantly discounted options for student non-members. With this opportunity the IEEE Photonics Society intends to attract talented students and members across the scientific community, as well as increase the visibility of their work. In addition, the Society has plans to present 10 Graduate Student Fellowships during the conference’s virtual awards ceremony, and students will be selected for prestigious “Best Paper Awards”, a key feature of the annual conference. Additional interactive professional development programs for students, i.e. trainings and tutorials, industry workshops, and events designed to foster interaction between different generations of members, will be announced in the coming months.

As the Society’s “incubator” conference, the IEEE Summer Topicals Meeting Series, scheduled virtually for July 2021, will feature five topics this year: Photonics for Information Processing; Reconfigurable Optics and Photonics; Silicon-Integrated Mid-Infrared Photonics; Structured Light and Beyond; and Ultra-wideband Optical Fibre Communication Systems. SUM brings an impressive list of plenary, tutorial and invited speakers from all over the world to promote the most recent advances in these fields.

The Research & Applications in Photonics Defense Conference (RAPID) is scheduled for August 2021. Virtually, the conference will cover 11 technical topics from applications and enabling technologies in the photonics defense space to nanophotonics, optical imaging and advanced photonics manufacturing. RAPID complements SUM both technically and by engaging a broader photonics audience. The keynote speaker this year is Bindu R. Nair, from the United States Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD). With an expertise in Material Science and Engineering, she oversees and coordinates OSD’s $2.5 billion investment in high risk research projects in the fields of physical science, life science, environmental science, and applied mathematics. This talk will give us all a better understanding of how government and science policy, development, and planning intersect.

that link audiences worldwide. At the end of April the Student Chapter Mangalam College of Engineering, Kottayam, Kerala, India, organized the IEEE International Conference on Nanoelectronics, Nanophotonics, Nanomaterials, Nanobioscience and Nanotechnology (5NANO2021) that was very well attended by participants from Asia, Europe, Australia and the Americas. These types of events offer a platform to train our future leaders in Photonics around the world.

Another conference of mention is the SBFoton: International Optics and Photonics Conference 2021, led by The Brazilian Photonics Society and sponsored by the IEEE Photonics Society and OSA. The conference went fully online in late May, offering free full interactive access to technical sessions in both Spanish and English to countries throughout IEEE Region 9 (Latin America). A rendition of our Society’s “Photonics Lab Tours” program was featured, along with tutorial sessions and a virtual paper competition. Aspects of the recorded conference will be offered on our Societies’ websites. Stay tuned!

Conferences are a preeminent venue to bring visibility to photonics innovation, and its impact on society. We are eager to come back to in-person conferences, to the opportunities and interaction they provide members of our community to exchange ideas, to learn from one another, and to congratulate those who have championed our field forward and deserve to receive prestigious awards in-person. However, we have also learned new and creative ways to engage through virtual platforms, in which we hope to further bring into our physical conferences.

Ultimately, we owe ourselves and our future innovators of tomorrow, who are aspiring photonics professionals, every opportunity to interact with prospective collaborators, employers, and mentors worldwide, as well as grow and establish themselves in the field that has given us all so much.

With warm regards.
Carmen S. Menoni
President (2020–2021)
IEEE Photonics Society