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Optics Society wins Elaine Harden Award from College of Engineering

From outreach programs for local kids to events that bring the U-M Engineering community together, the Optics Society exemplifies leadership and service.

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OSUM board members (from left): Laura Andre, Alex Sarracino, Grace Kerber, Kizito Madu, Hanzhang Pei, Hannah Kim, Ady Hambarday, Dehui Zhang, Kaiwen Guo and Umur Gokmen

The Optics Society at the University of Michigan (OSUM) has been awarded the Elaine Harden Award from the College of Engineering for its dedicated leadership and service to the community.

OSUM’s goals are to promote the discipline of Optical Science and Engineering through the organized effort of students and faculty, to disseminate knowledge of the field of Optics and Photonics, and to further the professional development of the students. They are a joint student chapter of the Optical Society (OSA) and the International Society for Optics and Photonics (SPIE).

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OSUM hosts a variety of professional and social events for students of all disciplines to network and find their own community. Every year, they organize an industry spotlight, which brings together students, faculty, industry representatives, and local community members. The event features speakers from across the industry and a career fair where companies show off a variety of demos and tech. Last year, nearly 100 attendees turned out for the event.

OSUM is also very involved in outreach to the local community. Last year, OSUM partnered with its sister society, the Ann Arbor Chapter of the Optics Society, to bring hands-on optics to school kids from second grade through high school. Every week, members of OSUM would go to one of two afterschool programs – one in Jackson, MI, and the other at Peace Neighborhood Center in Ann Arbor, which specifically serves economically disadvantaged students. OSUM would provide old electronics that the students could disassemble and reassemble into new items, like cameras, allowing them to learn about the principles of optics and lasers. The program was initiated by ECE PhD student Laura Andre, who served as president of OSUM last year.

“Working on that outreach project was really rewarding,” Andre said. “It was exciting to see the students tinkering and discovering new things about science. A lot of them were not interested in science at first, but after the project was over, they were really interested in learning more about technology and wanted to pursue engineering in the future.”

OSUM also participates in many College of Engineering and ECE outreach events, including the college’s Xplore engineering summer camp for middle schoolers and ECE’s Family Fun Night. OSUM’s current president is ECE PhD student Hanzhang Pei.

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