Dear Supporters of the International Day of Light,

Please let us start by wishing you all the best for 2021, and it is our pleasure to introduce the first International Day of Light (IDL) newsletter for the year. We are enthusiastically developing our plans for the upcoming International Day of Light and we are starting to receive submissions of events from around the world. As you will see from the content of this newsletter, there is a lot going on! 
As we mentioned in our first newsletter, a focus of 2021 will be to communicate the key message of how support for science is a necessary and central part of today’s world. Events over the last year have shown us how the misunderstanding of science can have truly tragic consequences, but in our community, we have both the knowledge and opportunity to address this directly. Public outreach can play a crucial role in restoring confidence in science, and to this end, with support from our partners IEEE, OSA, and SPIE, we will be launching a major communication initiative around the theme of Trust Science. More details will be coming soon. 
An additional important goal of the International Day of Light is to promote the role of women in science, and a great chance to get involved early in 2021 is by supporting the United Nations International Day for Women and Girls in Science on Thursday February 11. One way to participate is through the online campaign of the Institute of Physics, and other IDL Steering Committee members have also some fantastic initiatives and resources. See below for details!  
Another item below is a new regular feature on Light Alumni, where we will be highlighting the stories of individuals from the light outreach community who have been involved in International Year of Light or the International Day of Light. We will be presenting some personal and inspiring stories of the positive outcomes of participating in outreach and science communication.  Please feel forward to share these stories within your own networks and encourage more people to get involved!  And of course, we will continue to highlight in this newsletter other actions and initiatives from all our partners as you see in the content which follows!  If you have any ideas or events of your own that you wish to promote, please let us know. 

We are now welcoming registration of events for next year.  In 2021, the International Day of Light falls on a Sunday, and so we are suggesting a strong global focus during the Saturday-to-Saturday period 15-22 May.  Of course, we remain completely flexible, and events celebrating light at all other times of the year can also be recognized as part of the International Day of Light!  

As we begin our planning, we encourage all within the International Day of Light community to continue following and engaging with our social media channels using the hashtag #LightDay2021 and the official channels: @IDLOfficial on Twitter, @DayOfLight2021 on Instagram, and the @InternationalDayOfLight on Facebook. And once again, we acknowledge the continued commitment and support from the Steering Committee and other partners. Information about our partnership and how to get involved is here.

John Dudley and Joseph Niemela
IDL 2021 Steering Committee Chairs
Bethany Downer
IDL Communications Coordinator

Celebrate the United Nations International Day of Women and Girls in Science
The United Nations International Day of Women and Girls in Science is celebrated every year on February 11 to support the increased participation of women and girls in science. At present, less than 30 per cent of researchers worldwide are women and indeed, only around 30 per cent of all female students select STEM-related fields in higher education.
In many cases, girls and women are steered away from science-related fields by long-standing gender stereotypes, but there are sometimes very effective and simple ways to address this.  One remarkable initiative that has been run for several years now by the Institute of Physics (IOP) has been a social media campaign on Twitter encouraging women around the world to tweet selfies along with brief descriptions of what they do.  Participants have ranged from PhD students to senior scientists in major research organizations, and the Tweets and photos posted online have revealed the incredible diversity of how women are actively involved in science.
To take part in the initiative, all you have to do is tweet a selfie on the 11 February, add some lines about what you do and include the #iamaphysicist hashtag in the post. If your work involves more than just physics (the case for many of us) then feel free to add an extra hashtag (e.g. #iamateacher) but do make sure that you always include #iamaphysicist so that it’s picked up by the campaign. If you want some ideas for posts based on previous years, just search the hashtag on Twitter for inspiration.
Other International Day of Light Steering Committee members also actively support the goals to encourage women in science at all levels.  For example, follow these links to read about the activities of AIP, APS, and the IEEE.  In addition, The Optical Society (OSA) celebrates the International Day of Women and Girls in Science by sharing special tributes from the community here, and why not use the International Day as the chance to make a nomination for SPIE's 2022 Women in Optics Planner? Nominations are open until 1 March 2021.  

Getting onto Twitter

If you do not have a Twitter account, it takes no more than 5 minutes to create one. Go to this link here and follow the simple instructions. You will be able to choose a Twitter username (be creative if yours is taken!) and if you like, you can embellish a profile with photos and brief information.  The community of scientists on Twitter is often referred to as “Science Twitter” and following what’s going on is a great way to follow the activities of people doing similar things to you. If you don’t know where to start, try following @IDLOfficial and see where that takes you!  

IDL Social Media Graphics and Backgrounds from the SPIE IDL Photo Contest
Show your support and enthusiasm for IDL 2021 now by updating your social media platforms with formatted graphics created by SPIE. The Society has created cover photos for Facebook, personal profile banners for LinkedIn, and header images for Twitter featuring photography from their 2020 SPIE IDL Photo Contest. All the images have been optimized for mobile as well. Once you update your accounts, tag your images and help spread the word about IDL via social media by using the official Day of Light hashtag #LightDay2021.
You can also bring awareness of the event by using virtual meeting backgrounds featuring photo contest images. And new this year, you can update your phone and desktop wallpaper backgrounds too. Find all these options and download the graphics at


Liter of Light and the LIGHT IT FORWARD Challenge

Liter of Light has been a partner of UNESCO’s light-themed outreach activities since the International Year of Light in 2015, and has regularly organized events for the International Day of Light.  For 2021, its activities in the Philippines will be carried out in the frame of its groundbreaking campaign for climate action: the LIGHT IT FORWARD Challenge.

As the Philippines adapted to the onslaught of COVID19, Liter of Light shifted to online platforms and strategies to be able to continue with its work, launching the first ever digital to offline campaign of its kind.  Inspired by the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, LIGHT IT FORWARD invites ordinary people to build solar lights for communities without electricity from the safety of their homes. Everyone who participates in the LIGHT IT FORWARD campaign receives a kit to build a solar light, which takes less than 30 minutes to assemble. Online videos guide participants to assemble the devices. Challenge participants are asked to dedicate their light to an essential worker or frontliner who has impacted them during the COVID-19 pandemic and, after recording their solar light building, each participant then challenges their friends to participate.  Since July 2020, the initiative has empowered 15,000 families in energy-poor and disaster-stricken communities across the country.

In a moving tribute the front liners and essential workers that have been keeping everyone healthy, safe, and well, Liter of Light built some of the largest solar-powered artworks featuring the hand-built lights from the “Light It Forward” campaign. On November 30, Bonifacio Day, it unveiled the largest solar-powered Philippine flag in Luneta Park, the symbolic focal point of Philippine history.

Liter of Light illuminates historic national park with hand-built solar powered flag. The flag, unveiled on the national holiday Bonifacio Day, paid particular tribute to all frontliners working to combat the pandemic.

The LIGHT IT FORWARD campaign is part of a broader strategy for Liter of Light. Working in 32 countries with over 2,700 youth ambassadors, Liter of Light is one of the largest organizations that works with youth to engage companies in Europe, Latin America, Southeast Asia, and Africa on building simple and repairable solar lights, mobile charging systems, and street lights. Using materials from within each community, the organization empowers the lives of over one million people a year, while creating opportunities for green micro businesses, and lowering carbon emissions by 1000kg per hand-built solar lamp.  Liter of Light is also planning to be present at the next EXPO 2021 in Dubai in October. 

To learn more about Liter of Light and its LIGHT IT FORWARD campaign: visit their website, or check out their pages on Instagram, Facebook and Youtube

Days of Light in 2021 at the Fitzpatrick Institute for Photonics

The Fitzpatrick Institute for Photonics (FIP) regularly organizes outreach events with the OSA/SPIE Duke Student Chapters (to promote successful engagement with the local community and high school educational programs.  For the International Day of Light in 2021, the FIP is planning a special photonics celebration program spanning from May 16-18. 
Activities on Sunday May 16 will focus on outreach, with a range of exciting activities, including:
  • A video contest for high school students on the theme of Light and its Beneficial Influence on Society
  • Educational activities and Video lab demonstrations of photonics experiments aimed at the general public organized by the SPIE/OSA student chapters

The next two days May 17-18 will see the 2021 FIP Virtual Annual Meeting, an all-virtual, web conference.  The FIP 2021 Symposium on Photonics Science and Technology will see a Keynote Lecture by Nobel Laureate Dr. Rainer Weiss from Massachusetts Institute of Technology who will talk about gravitational wave detection, followed by a range of other presentations in special topic sessions on: Advanced Interferometry; Light Technologies and the Brain; Photonics and Pandemics.
The FIP 2021 Symposium on Photonics Science and Technology will plan to run in the afternoon on the East Coast of the USA to be open to as wide an international audience as possible.  Registration will be free.  Details will be provided at a later date in a future International Day of Light newsletter and on the Institute website here and here

IDL is on Instagram! 

 The International Day of Light launched an Instagram page for 2020 and this channel will continue to be used for updates about #LightDay2021! Follow @DayOfLight2021 for updates about about the next Day Of Light in May 2021, including news and announcements, as well as a special collection of photography that features the role and beauty of light in our daily lives!

Celebrating our Light Alumni

Since we first began planning the International Year of Light over 10 years ago in 2009, thousands of volunteers have helped us organize events and reach out around the world.  Leading up to the International Day of Light in 2021, we will be profiling some of these wonderful and committed volunteers so that their activities, careers, and inspiring stories can be appreciated by the wider International Day of Light Community.    
Yuhong Bai (China)

Dr. Prof. Yuhong Bai is the general chief editor of journal Light: Science & Applications, a world-renowned optics journal. She is also the PI of a US-China project with Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and chief editor of journal Optics and Precision Engineering. She has received China’s most prominent awards in publishing  (ChinaGovernment Prize in Publishing, Leading Talent in News & Publishing), and has authored a book and 50 journal papers. 

I have been involved in promoting optics outreach since 2015, and the International Year of Light.  Serving on the International Day of Light Steering Committee representing the Light: Science & Applications journal, I have actively worked to raise the visibility of light science to broad communities, focusing particularly on how basic research in photonic science can impact on important societal issues and promote sustainable development.  I have organized Light Conferences and the Lighting the Blue online forum to highlight the International Year of Light and International Day of Light, and worked especially to raise visibility of these initiatives in China. 

Working with the International Year and Day of Light partnership has highlighted to me the importance of supporting early career scientists and those from less developed countries.  As a result, I initiated a new Rising Stars of Light campaign to support young scientists, and the journal has waived publication fees for researchers from less developed countries.  And during the pandemic, I have hosted a series of online talk which have attracted an audience of over a million, promoting researcher interactions even when they are unable to meet face-to face. 

Along with all the members of Light: Science & Applications, we look forward every year to the International Day of Light as we work with the global photonics community to promote the importance of our field to the public and to the world.  It is always a challenge, and we always learn something from working with such a diverse partnership. 

Danielle Harper (Scotland, the United States)

Dr Danielle Harper graduated from St Andrews University with a master’s degree in physics in 2015, and went on to complete a PhD degree at the Medical University of Vienna in Austria. Since March 2020, she has been working as a postdoc in Boston at the Wellman Center for Photomedicine. Her specialty is biophotonics, and she is currently working on advancing Optical Coherence Tomography imaging, from basic research to clinical applications.  She is actively pursuing an academic career in biophotonics, with a long-term goal to be able to mentor students and postdocs through their own research.

I first became aware of the International Year of Light towards the end of my undergraduate studies at the University of St Andrews (Scotland), when I was on the executive committee of the International Association of Physics Students (IAPS). The mission of IAPS is to promote collaborations amongst physics students around the globe, and I was delighted to take on the role of International Year of Light coordinator for 2015. During the International Year, we organized a number of new initiatives such as the IAPS School Day to take physics experiments to schools, and I had the opportunity to represent IAPS at the opening ceremony at UNESCO in Paris, and to work with other volunteer students to help.  It was a wonderful experience and made me appreciate the vast differences between the lenses through which people see light.

It was also fantastic to see how the the Year of Light has been followed by an annual International Day of Light. One thing I've come to realise about activities associated with international celebrations is that regardless of the scale of the event, their success relies upon local people coming together to organize and participate. Since 2019, I have organized local-level events targeted at friends and family, which I find equally as rewarding as conducting those on the international level. I love the fact that the International Day of Light provides a platform for anyone to host an event, exactly the way they want to host it.

I have been very active in outreach since my early undergraduate days, and I plan to make outreach a part of my career. As one becomes more specialized, initiatives like the International Day of Light remind us once a year that we are part of a much broader international community.

Saurabh Narang (India, Germany)

Saurabh Naurang ‘s work has featured in publications including The Guardian, NatGeo, DW, and PetaPixel, and has been recognized with the IPF Portrait Prize 2018, the Excellence Prize of the 2019 Asia-Pacific Youth Storytelling Contest, and the Sony Alpha Stories Award. For the International Day of Light 2021, Saurabh is expanding the Virtual Photo Summit, and looking for new partners and sponsors to make it a unique photo festival, and to fund awards to support photographers from marginalized communities. He is also looking for stories from the Science World that will shape our future in the post-COVID world. You may reach out to him at or via

I am an Indian visual storyteller currently based in Germany, with interest in documenting human stories of communities, cultures, and unexplored places. I was born in Delhi (India) and initially worked as a financial analyst at Barclays, before taking a sabbatical and embarking on an independent career as a photographer.  During my sabbatical year, I travelled around India with my social project #create4cause, and I came to see how visual storytelling offers life-altering experiences both for the artist and for those who view the images created.  In my work, I try to patiently listen to people tell their stories which I then represent through images. I hope that my photographs allow others to understand and accept differences in cultures and peoples, and I always try to combine my work with fundraising for the communities I visit. 

I first learned about the International Day of Light in 2017 through the Indian national node (Dr. Zahid Husain Khan), and I have been enthusiastically conducting photography-related events since. In 2019, I spoke at the UNESCO-ICTP Illuminating Education conference in Trieste (Italy), and I also led a project Spiti Photo Tour For A Cause (in collaboration with Spiti Ecosphere) to mentor photographers and celebrate the International Day of Light at the highest village in the World in Spiti Valley, Himachal Pradesh, India. During 2020, travel restrictions trapped me in a rural village in Sikkim, India, but despite the many challenges, I organised a Virtual Photo Summit which brought together more than 25 of the world’s leading storytellers (from National Geographic, Bollywood etc.) to celebrate the International Day of Light virtually. For 2021, I am planning to further develop the Virtual Photo Summit to support photographers from marginalized communities. 
Mirwat Shamshad (Pakistan)

Mirwat Shamshad teaches physics in Pakistan, working hard on her own professional development to guide her teaching. She participates regularly in international programmes, and has attended for example: the 2019 International Teachers’ Week 2019 at CERN (representing Pakistan); the 2019 UNESCO Active Learning in Optics and Photonics workshop in Indonesia; the 2020 ICTP Winter College on Optics in Trieste; the 2020 Schrodinger Class at the Institute of Quantum Computing, of the University of Waterloo, Canada.  Her long-term goal is to continue to further her education, not only for her own personal development, but also to act as an inspiration for girls in Pakistan to work in science.

I am an educator and I teach physics to high school girls in Islamabad, Pakistan.  My aim is to to provide an environment to nurture in my students strong roots for science and STEM education, and to give them an appreciation of scientific thought and the confidence to pursue careers in science and engineering. 

I was first introduced to the International Day of Light in February 2020 when I had the opportunity to visit the International Centre for Theoretical Physics (UNESCO-ICTP) in Italy, and I was excited by the many learning opportunities that I could see for my students.  I especially appreciated the spirit of the International Day of Light in providing a platform to work with the global community to popularize science and provide opportunities for developing nations.

During 2020, I had the pleasure of developing a range of light outreach activities with my students, including: a month long study with the Harvard Smithsonian Astrophysics department using a remote telescope and analysing the light curve data of exoplanet HAT-P3; a hands-on Active Learning in Optics and Photonics (ALOP) workshop with SPIE; an Interplay of Art and Science poster activity for the 2020 #SeetheLight campaign; and participation in a two-day programme at the Canadian Light Source.
Seeing the real impact of these outreach activities on my students is inspiring for me as a teacher, and is a wonderful motivation to keep working on similar projects in the future. 

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International Day of Light Secretariat · Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics ICTP · Str. Costiera 11 · Trieste, TS 34151 · Italy

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