MiniModes 2021 Photonics School was an optical student conference organized by the University of Warsaw IEEE Photonics Society Student Branch. It was the second iteration of this type of event, and it is going to become an annual event. The program of the conference was very intense, engaging and diversified: the topics ranged from cutting-edge optics and photonics to career planning and soft skills essential for young scientists.

Students participated in a poster session, attended exciting lectures and workshops and had lots of opportunities for active discussions. The event helped to bring the local optical community together in these challenging times, enrich participants with fresh ideas and broaden their network of contacts.

MiniModes 2021 was held on 4–6 June in the European Centre for Geological Education in Che˛ ciny. 26 students and 6 speakers participated in it. The conference was greatly supported by IEEE Photonics Society Educational Seed-Funding Grant.

MiniModes 2021 aimed to unite students and scientists who do research in optics, photonics or related fields at the University of Warsaw. Making contacts on such events can result in fruitful cooperation between different research groups in the future. MiniModes 2021 was also an excellent chance to involve new members in the UW Branch. Conference activities raised the competence of participants, and challenging organizational tasks trained and tested the organizing committee’s abilities to coordinate scientific conferences, collaborate on a team, design marketing actions, create websites and other skills. Luckily, MiniModes 2021 could occur in an in-person mode after all, but participants were required to comply with all sanitary requirements.

The talks delivered during the conference covered the forefront topics in modern optics and photonics—both experimental and theoretical. The experimental part was presented by Michał Jachura (“From quantum cryptography to microsatellite constellations: optics in secure optical communication”) and Jakub Bogusławski (“Biophotonic applications of femtosecond fiber lasers”), and the theoretical one was presented by by Jan Chweden´czuk (“Quantum entanglement and its applications”). All of them are the leaders or bright representatives of the research groups from the University of Warsaw, Centre for New Technologies UW (CeNT UW) and International Center for Translational Eye Research (ICTER). Every talk provoked dynamic discussions between participants and speakers.

However, optics is also a very fast-growing sector of technological business. That’s why Je˛ drzej Mijas and Jan Sobieski from Vigo System were also invited. Vigo System is a company that has existed since the 1980s which provides its customers with high-class infrared detectors. Jan Sobieski gave a talk about the unique technology standing behind them. Furthermore, Vigo System representatives organized an interactive team contest for the participants.
Career building could be found among the conference topics, too. Roberta Caruso from Brookhaven National Laboratory was invited to share with participants her story, and she gave valuable recommendations based on her experience. She couldn’t be on-site at the conference due to travel restrictions, so she gave a talk via Zoom. It was a good opportunity to try out a hybrid conference (when part of the activities are held online), which may be useful in the near future. Finally, Magdalena Osial from the Faculty of Chemistry UW conducted two workshops on soft skills necessary to make a career in academia or industry. The participants improved their teamwork, presentation skills, creative thinking, etc.

Certainly, the conference wouldn’t be complete without the poster session, which is essentially the most important part. Indeed, participants of MiniModes 2021 led the most enthusiastic discussions during it. They shared with each other and invited speakers the results of their research, so everybody obtained a better understanding about other research groups’ work.

The funds received from the IEEE Photonics Society helped make the conference possible to attend for every student who so desired. Participants not only weren’t required to pay conference fees, but some part of the budget was administered to minimize the cost of their preparation for the conference. The organizers were able to print a good-quality poster for every participant who needed it.

Moreover, it was possible to cover food and accommodation for some participants’ family members. The University of Warsaw Student Branch considers helping students who need to care intensively about their families simultaneously with achieving success in their research very important. IEEE Photonics Society Educational Seed Funding Grant gave an excellent opportunity to turn this idea into action.

It’s just the beginning! The University of Warsaw IEEE Photonics Society Student Branch believes it will be possible to develop a good-quality annual event which unifies the local community and looks forward to further partnership with the IEEE Photonics Society!