If you are going to San Francisco… be sure to attend SPIE Photonics West

My name is Lara Martini, I am a doctorate student from Argentina and I attended the 2020 SPIE Photonics West conference in San Francisco from February 1 to 6 thanks to the Early Career Researchers Travel Grant, from Communications Physics!

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In my thesis I study the interaction of molecules of biological interest with assisted attopulses. The attopulses belong to the very recent research area of ultrashort laser physics. The duration of the attopulses represents the shortest time interval measured until now by mankind, being 10-18 seconds. The interest in these processes is that through the combined action of the attopulse with the assistant laser, it would allow the control of the reactivity of the photochemical reactions involved. The study of the interaction of attopulses with biomolecules is virtually an unexplored area. On one hand, it could have impact in the optics and photonics fields by helping the development of ultrafast laser experiments and technologies. On the other hand, it could promote progress on different fields such as radiobiology and medical physics.

Since 2016, I have presented my research work in several national scientific meetings by posters and oral presentations. The 2017 SPIE Optics + Photonics in San Diego was the only conference I attended abroad and the biggest one I participated in at that moment. I presented a poster and I had the opportunity to talk with renowned international researchers. That encouraged me to keep the optics and photonics research path.

This new chance I had to attend to the 2020 SPIE Photonics West conference was much more beneficial for me. Unlike 2017, this time I was closer to finish my doctorate, I was much more involved in the subject and with more confidence to establish professional relations. In addition, at 2020 SPIE Photonics West there was a full conference dedicated to Ultrafast Optics. It was a great place to make my work visible. I met researchers who work with the laser technology of my thesis but oriented to different applications and we exchange very interesting talks. In addition, the poster session was very interactive. Attendees with highly different profiles showed interest on my poster, as on posters in general, and generated fruitful conversations.    

For those wishing to apply for the Communications Physics travel grant this year, do not doubt in participating. I thought I had no chance to be selected but now I realize that all the candidates may think this way. We fail when we believe that our work does not matter but it does matter. When I was selected as one of the recipients, I was shocked and grateful at the same time. Thanks to the grant founds I was able to attend the conference but deep inside I think that the recognition on what you do is what signifies most.

Young researchers, a meeting like this is a great opportunity to forge relationships of international dimension. It is very important to establish bonds that open doors to carry out further work. This kind of conferences are an excellent opportunity to find employment and/or collaboration. Particularly, SPIE Photonics West has an employment fair where you can look for a job explicitly. However, the attendees can look to network by themselves. My advice is to do some research on what you are looking for before the event, with whom researcher or company representative you would like to talk and contact them by email to arrange a meeting. These events are too big, people are busy and your dream job can be walking in front of your nose with you not even noticing it.

Lara Martini

PhD Student, Institute of Physics Rosario (CONICET-UNR)

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