I believe that our interactions with light are amongst some of the most powerful and memorable experiences that one can have. Even our subtle interactions with light outside of the lab can have an extremely profound effect on the way we think and perceive the world. One of the most profound ways that light permeates our everyday language is in our use of light as a metaphor to clarify a concept. Words such as illuminate, illustrate, and enlighten make sense to us because of our everyday experience with light from childhood. When a new explanation of some phenomena comes to our attention, we may say that some light has been shed on the subject. In the lab, the interaction between light and matter can provide us with a great amount of information about the characteristics of our universe and applications for new types of technology. In the laboratory, we are put into a unique situation. Not only is light used to reveal the properties of materials and objects around us, but also the concept and properties of light itself are revealed or even can be said to be illuminated.
I started optical science research in my junior year of college. When I found out that I had been accepted as a participant in the Hooked on Photonics REU program at UA, I was very excited. The furthest west I had ever traveled in the United States was Illinois, so the REU seemed like a perfect opportunity for the summer. UA has a historically strong program for optics, so I was looking forward to being part of such an immersive optics experience. After the program, I remember reading through the October issue of the OSA publication Optics and Photonics News and coming across the feature article on the 50th Anniversary of the College of Optical Sciences at UA written by Dean Thomas Koch. His description of the Arizona sky and the “blue-sky thinking” that characterizes the institution and its hosted programs completely reflects my memory of my summer experience. Continue reading