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  • Liaising for Light

Photonics Spectra
Aug 2013
Jana Huisman

As a young girl in the Netherlands, Huisman had a curiosity about the world around her that led her to study physics. That same curiosity now drives the 18-year-old’s interest in photonics, and she’s putting it to good use in her new appointment as Young Ambassador for Photonics Education.

Huisman, now in her third year of undergraduate studies at the University of Bonn in Germany, was officially given the role this spring by European Commissioner Neelie Kroes at the annual meeting of Photonics21, the European technology platform for photonics. The position was created by Photonics21 and the European Commission.

Jana Huisman (center) accepts the Young Ambassador for Photonics Education award from Photonics21 President Dr. Michael Mertin and European Commissioner Neelie Kroes.

The ambassadorship was created to help stimulate interest in studying photonics, one of Europe’s key enabling technologies. The European photonics industry makes up 20 percent of the global market, and the European Union is home to more than 5000 SMEs (small- and medium-sized enterprises) in the sector, Kroes pointed out at the meeting.

In her role, Huisman will visit three European research institutes this year to observe photonics research in action. “I’m looking forward to learning about what they are doing, bringing my enthusiasm, and then writing and blogging about it – hopefully, I can transmit some of that enthusiasm to other students,” Huisman said.

At the award ceremony, Kroes asked Huisman to join, as an observer, her group of Young Advisors on the Digital Agenda, which provides insight into digital communication technologies and applications.

In her undergraduate work, Huisman is studying the interaction between light and matter. “There’s a connection to life,” she said. “There are photonics applications in environmental and health sciences, and with photovoltaics, we can imitate nature by getting energy from sunlight.”

Engineering and Relativity

Master’s student Jacob Barnett enrolled at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) at age 10 and in the four years since has conducted research on various physics topics, including engineering optical materials such as fiber optic cables to balance gain and loss occurring at different locations; his work could have profound implications on light propagation in optical waveguides. He was featured on “60 Minutes” in 2012 as well as in other media, including a memoir by his mother – and he has claimed that he could someday disprove Einstein’s theory of relativity.

Flash of Insight

Richard Turere created Lion Lights to help keep lions from killing his family’s cattle in Kitengela, Kenya – and to keep his family from killing the lions, which are endangered. As he tended the herd at age 11, he noticed that the lions stayed away when people were present, so he tried scarecrows and kerosene lamps; when these did not work, he got technical. He built a solar-powered system of LED lights connected to car-signal flashers that would make the lights blink randomly, as if people with flashlights were moving nearby. Now 13, Turere participated in the TED 2013 conference in California and plans to pursue a technical career. His invention also won him a scholarship to Brookhouse School in Nairobi.

Giving Back

Two years ago, at 16, Raquel Redshirt won special recognition at Intel’s International Science and Engineering Fair for her research on solar oven heat capacity. The idea was born of her own experience, according to Intel: Every day, she saw impoverished neighbors on New Mexico’s Navajo Nation struggling to pay for basics such as electricity, so she started working on an improved and affordable solar oven design. Redshirt told Intel that she wants to be an environmental engineer and give back to her community someday. Her prize was an educational and cultural trip to Germany.

Career Acceleration

In 2012, Henry Lin, a student at Caddo Parish Magnet High School in Shreveport, La., placed second in the Physics & Astronomy category at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair. His project, “A Generalized Holographic Model of Cosmic Accelerated Expansion,” won $4700 in prizes, including an all-expenses-paid trip to the European Organization for Nuclear Research at CERN in Switzerland. Lin also presented his work at the 2012 Astrophysics and Exoplanet Science Colloquia and Seminars at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. This spring, Lin was one of 100 US students invited to discuss science and engineering with President Obama at the White House. And in May, he received an Intel Foundation Young Scientist Award of $50,000.

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