Dear Supporters of the International Day of Light,

It has been wonderful for us to see how the enthusiasm for the International Day of Light in 2021 is developing at a tremendous rate.  We are receiving enquiries and updates from partners around the world, and many exciting events are being planned. 
This newsletter highlights a selection of the news that we have received, and continues our series featuring our Light Alumni, individuals with inspiring stories who have been involved in the International Year of Light or the International Day of Light. Please feel forward to share these within your own networks and encourage more people to get involved. And if you know of someone who you think should be highlighted, please let us know! 
In addition, we have updated our guide to organizing hybrid or online IDL events – they are much easier to put together than you would think, and with all of us now very used to online events, it is usually straightforward and quick to put together an excellent programme. And even if you don’t have the time to organize an event with several different speakers, why not use the International Day of Light as the opportunity to invite that special guest speaker you’ve been thinking of for a while.  And if you want a special message from the International Day of Light Secretariat, just reach out – if timing permits we will always try to participate live, but at the very least, we can record a message for you, or provide you with the general slides you need to deliver your own! 
Please make sure to register your event on our event calendar as soon as possible, and don’t hesitate to send us more details if you have them, as we’ll be delighted to consider this for our newsletter or website.  And as mentioned before, events do not have to be restricted to May 16.  As long as the events respect the goals of the International Day of Light, other dates can be a focus for a celebration.  Indeed, we will be running a 72 hours of light social media programme from 15-17 May with regular updates and retweets of key messages and videos etc. 
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, and we will soon be launching a major communication initiative around the theme of Trust Science. This initiative already has the support of partners of all kinds, from Nobel laureates to leading scientific societies and academies. We will shortly be announcing how this campaign will work, so please look out for the details as they come!

As we continue 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

Column of sunlight in the Cave of the Sun in Xochicalco during the zenith passage of the sun.

Xochicalco Zenith Passage of the Sun on the International Day of Light

For the cultures of Mesoamerica, as for many others around the world, the sun and solar phenomena were of central importance.  The Mesoamerican people recognized clear correlation between the passage of the sun and the cycles of nature throughout the year, and they developed a sophisticated understanding of how careful observation could be applied to follow them either for practical purposes such as agriculture, or for various cultural rituals.   
At the site of Xochicalco, Mexico (around 80 kilometers South of Mexico City), there is a remarkable example of a solar observatory set up for this purpose, where a cave chamber has been modified with the specific objective of allowing study of the movement of the sun.  In particular, anywhere between the southern and the northern Tropics, there are two times every year when the sun passes directly overhead at noon at the zenith, vertical above the viewer's head. To track these events at Xochicalco, a Zenith Tube or chimney structure was constructed, an opening of 40 cm wide descending for more than five meters before opening into a broad underground chamber.  The overhead sun sends a vertical column of light directly into the cave as shown in the photograph, lasting for around 40 minutes. 
One can readily imagine the significance of this event for the peoples at the time!  But there is also great significance today, for one of the times when the light shines vertically into the Xochicalco cave corresponds almost exactly with the International Day of Light on the 16 May!   In fact the cave is illuminated for 105 days a year from 30 April to 15 August, with the Zenith dates being 15-16 May and 27-28 July.  The Archaeological Monuments Zone of Xochicalco has been recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and it is very fitting that one of its major features has a special association with another UNESCO celebration on the International Day of Light. Every day on the 16 May, we can therefore reflect not only on what modern light-based technologies do for us today, but also on how light has influenced life and culture in the past. 

Learn more here and by watching this video (Spanish).

Register for the 2021 International Day of Light

This is a friendly reminder that we invite you to register your activity for the 2021 International Day of Light. We welcome virtual and remote events, as well as those taking place throughout the year! Once your submission has been reviewed, it will be added to the growing global event calendar.

Congratulations 2021 SPIE IDL Micro Grant Recipients

SPIE is excited to announce the recipients of the 2021 SPIE International Day of Light Micro Grants. These grants support local community events and activities that highlight the critical role that light plays in our daily lives. This year’s recipients are:

   • Abhiroop Chellu and Tampere University (Finland)
   • Caroline Reilly and the Univ. of California, Santa Barbara (United States)
   • Hafiz Saad Khaliq and the Information Technology Univ. of the Punjab (Pakistan)
   • Haini Zhang and Washington Univ. in St. Louis (United States)
   • Lauren Cooper and the Optics Society at the University of Michigan (United States)
   • Linhui Yu and the Wellman Ctr. For Photomedicine (United States)
   • Namita Bindal and the Indian Institute of Technology Roorkee (India)
   • Paul Woafo and the Univ. of Yaoundé I, Faculty of Science (Cameroon)
   • Shilanjoy Bhattarcharjee and the Univ. of Engineering and Management (India)
   • Siann Bester and Stellenbosch Univ. (South Africa)
   • Waleed Khan and Ghulam Ishaq Khan Institute of Engineering Sciences and Technology (Pakistan)

We look forward to their participation in the global celebration in May. Learn more about this grant program here.

International Day of Light in Spain

The Spanish Committee for the International Day of Light met on 17 February to make plans for the activities that were cancelled last year because of the covid19 pandemic.

In particular, the Central IDL Event in Spain in 2021 will be held in the School of Optics and Optometry (FOOT) of the Technical University of Catalonia (Universitat Politecnica de Catalunya - UPC), at the city of Terrassa. Prof. Elisabet Perez, President of the organizing committee, highlights that the event will give special emphasis to Light, Vision and Visual Health. This celebration will run from Wednesday, May 12 to Saturday May 15 and will include face-to-face activities as well as hybrid and online events. The final format of each activity will be confirmed according to the situation of the pandemic.

Another activity that has been confirmed is the fourth edition of the FOTON awards. These awards, organized by the Institute of Optics of the National Research Council (IO-CSIC), with the support of secpho and SEDOPTICA recognize the works devoted to the dissemination of optics and photonics in media, as well as educational projects developed by teachers at primary and secondary schools, related to light science.

Several other activities are being programmed at different institutions in Spain: CARLA, the Photonics Career Hub leaded by ICFO and described below, virtual visits to the Synchroton ALBA for students, a cycle of conferences at the Institute of Academies of Andalucia, and other events at universities like Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Universidade de Santiago de Compostela and Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, among others, are already confirmed. Their final implementation will depend on the evolution of the pandemic situation, and all the information will be collected and updated at the IDL Spanish website.

International Day of Light takes shape in India

Plans to celebrate the International Day of Light in India are actively being developed, with Dr. Zahid H. Khan from the National Node for India for IDL 2021 highlighting some particularly exciting activities. 

Firstly, coordinated by Professor Danish Iqbal from the A.J.K. Mass Communication Research Centre, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi (a premier media institute in India), an audio-visual Series of high-quality programmes will be produced. The theme for 2021 will be “The Journey of Light - From Sunrise to Sunset", focusing on the science of light and colours in nature.  This will introduce to a broad audience the extra element of beauty to be found in nature when science is brought to understand natural optical phenomena.  In addition, to celebrate the Sufi metaphor of “Noor” (Light) as it relates to spiritual illumination, a Light & Sound programme will be created combining a Laser Show, Qawwali (Sufi devotional singing) and choreographed dances at Jamia or Qutub Minar or other historical monuments of Delhi.  Related activities will also produce cultural programmes involving leading singers and musicians with classical poetry around the theme of light. 

Secondly, in collaboration with Dr Abdul Moiz Shams, and Ophthalmologist at the Modern Eye Care Centre, Aligarh, India, a “Light and Vision” webinar will include a general lecture by Professor Zahid H. Khan on ”Light and Its Applications,” accompanying video, and a specialist lecture by Dr. Abdul Moiz Shams on “Eye Ailments and Their Treatment Using Lasers”.  Following the webinar, a free Eye Camp will be organized for the underprivileged  public at the Modern Eye Care Centre, Aligarh.

Promoting Careers in Photonics with CARLA

One of the key objectives of the International Day of Light is to encourage young people into careers in science, and this is naturally also shared by our partners who run events all year towards the same goal.  A European Union Horizon 2020 project initiative by ECOP (European Centres for Outreach in Photonics) and coordinated by the Institute of Photonics Sciences ICFO, has just kicked off a new exciting initiative of this type, with a highly successful training and networking event that took place from 23-25 February. 

The European Photonics CAReer LAunch Path (CARLA) project brings together a consortium of 11 partners from 10 different countries to raise awareness of the broad range of career opportunities in photonics. The target audience is STEM undergraduate and masters students, as well as PhD students and early-stage postdocs, and events take place in the frame of career development workshops known as CARLA camps.  These camps have been designed with the collaboration of over 80 representatives of different stakeholder groups, including members of the photonics industry and academia, entrepreneurs, as well as STEM university students and early-stage researchers. To ensure that diversity and inclusion were central components of all activities, experts in different dimensions of diversity were also involved in the design.

The first CARLA camp, organized by ICFO, attracted more than 150 attendees, and was a great success with student feedback describing it as “an amazing platform to get glimpses of the landscape, current photonics trends, and opportunities“.  After this successful pilot, the event will now be replicated in virtual and in person formats across Europe.

Follow Us on Social Media!

Twitter: @IDLOfficial 

Instagram: @DayOfLight2021
Facebook: @International Day Of Light 16 May

Don't forget to use #LightDay2021 to engage with us, to share your plans for celebrating around May 16th and throughout the year, and for showcasing how you use and celebrate light everyday!

Planning an Online or Hybrid Event for 2021 

Many events in May 2021 will need to be carried out either entirely or partially online. To this end, we would like to provide some timely tips to help you with your planning. These tips can also be read in conjunction with our general advice on event organization.  It really is much easier than you think! 
1.  Types of Event.  A Virtual Event is one where speakers and audience participate remotely from their own computers rather than gathering face to face at a specific location.  Also very common is the Hybrid Event where there may be a local audience gathered together in a room or lecture hall, and they will listen to talks both from local speakers delivered face to face, as well as talks projected on a screen from international speakers participating remotely.  It is also possible with a Hybrid event to stream or grant access to all presentations to a remote audience for those unable to attend in person.
2.  Platform and Logistics.  There is a wide range of software platforms that can be used to manage online events and to give streamed access to an online audience. Experience seems to suggest that there are more options and improved reliability using a paid service, but costs can be extremely reasonable if you require this just for one event.  In any case, many universities and schools will already provide full access to a suitable platform.  As an additional possibility, if you are part of a Student Chapter of a Scientific Society ( of our Steering Committee members) they may be able to provide you with access or advice.  
3.  Timing. Keeping an audience engaged for a full day with online presentations can be difficult, but our experience suggests that an event spanning only an afternoon can be very effective in spreading the messages of the International Day of Light.  So if all you have available is an afternoon, that can be perfect for a wonderful event!  If you are really finding it difficult to find the time to coordinate several different speakers, why not use the International Day of Light as the opportunity to invite that special guest you’ve been thinking of for a while.  And for a special message from the International Day of Light Secretariat, just reach out – if timing permits we will always try to participate live, but at the very least, we can record a message for you, or provide you with the general slides you need to deliver your own! 
4.  Programme. The choice of programme depends on the local audience and the particular topics that you wish to cover.  To help you plan, we can strongly recommend that you look at our resources section and review the programmes of the various International Year and Day of Light events that are available for download.  These programmes give examples on how to organize short thematic sessions bringing together multiple speakers on particular topics.  Also remember that we have placed online a range of videos for you to use, all of which can be incorporated into your planning.  

5.  In terms of potential speakers, we have a speaker database that you can draw on, and many of our Steering Committee partners have Travelling Lecturers that you can contact.  Please reach out early!  

6.  Register and Promote.  As always, please let us know of your plans via the event registration form!  We will delighted to promote your event via our global calendar, and if you have something special planned, we may also be able to run a special news item if you contact us in advance.  

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.    
Jimmi Hervé Talla Mbé (Cameroon)

Jimmi H. Talla Mbé is currently a senior lecturer in the Department of Physics at the University of Dschang, Cameroon. In 2012, he was a postdoctoral fellow at Université de Franche Comté CNRS FEMTO-ST Institute, Besançon, France. He is a fellow of the Cameroon Academy of Young Scientists (CAYS), Cameroon physical society (CPS), was awarded the African German Network of Excellence in Science (AGNES) for young scientists in 2012, and received a special grant from the Edmund Optics Educational Award (USA) in 2014. His research interests include nonlinear dynamics, optoelectronics, photonics, optomechanics, and optical metrology. Presently, he is extending his scope to other optical technologies such as visible light communication, optical-based water sanitation, and reservoir computing. He is always looking for funding and partners, so please do not hesitate to reach out.

I have been involved in promoting optics since 2008 through involvement with the student chapters of international professional societies.  For example, I was the co-founder and past president of the OSA (Optical Society) Cameroon student chapter from 2008 to 2012. This was the first optical student chapter in Central Africa, and we were able to organize various activities and competitions in optics for universities and high schools. Our success also led to the creation of other student chapters affiliated with SPIE and IEEE, and presently I am the advisor of the IEEE Photonics Society Cameroon student chapter. To stimulate the creation of other student chapters in Central Africa, students from other countries are regularly invited during our activities.

 In 2010, I was involved in the Laserfest celebrations of the 50th anniversary of the laser, as the local organizer in Cameroon where we ran activities under the theme Optical Solutions for Developing Countries, State-Of-Art. In 2015 when we celebrated The International Year of Light, I was again heavily involved with the local organization throughout the year, and I was also took the opportunity to develop and teach some new scientific courses.  I continue to regularly carry out outreach and have written a book on Production and Applications of Light, which has been distributed in optics conferences at Universities in Cameroon.  The Cameroon optics community is always enthusiastic and excited about the International Day of Light, and we will again be organizing events in 2020. 
Lydia Sanmartí-Vila (Barcelona)

Dr. Lydia Sanmartí-Vila (she/her), KTT Outreach Project Manager at ICFO. She is ECOP’s Executive Officer, where she coordinates the pursuit of new projects for ECOP to encourage collaboration among the centres. She manages ICFO’s international outreach projects and activities, such as the International year of Light, GoPhoton!, LIGHT2015, PHABLABS 4.0, QFLAG, the CSA of the Quantum Flagship and CARLA. She is the creator of the LIGHTtalks events, which were replicated in over 20 countries in Europe between 2015 and 2017. Lydia has a degree in chemistry from the Autonomous University of Barcelona and a doctorate in neurobiology from the Otto von Guericke University in Germany, and has extensive international experience, including several years in communications and management consulting in several firms in New York City, US.

After a PhD in neurosciences and after working in strategic communications and management consulting in the life sciences, my career in photonics outreach started in 2014 when I joined The Institute of Photonic Sciences (ICFO) in Barcelona. I joined the outreach team led by Dr Silvia Carrasco to support the preparation for the International Year of Light, managing various international initiatives such as the FP7 EU projects GoPhoton! and Light2015, as well as the European Centres for Outreach in Photonics alliance ECOP. For me, the International Year of Light was the opportunity to start a new career from a high point. 2015 was to become a key year for the photonics community, not only from the outreach and dissemination perspective, but also as means of creating cohesion within the photonics community through the various  organizing committees that were established, committees that have now evolved into planning and implementing the International Day of Light.

The International Year of Light led to new initiatives in outreach and dissemination both at the ICFO and ECOP levels. It opened the door to multi-disciplinary approaches to reach out to different audiences. Among the over 100 different activities that we  carried out in celebration of the International Year of Light, we were invited by the City Hall of Barcelona to inaugurate the city’s light festival LlumBCN in 2015, enabling us to bring the impact and potential of light-based research and technologies to the local political and industry communities. We also co-organized, as part of the Committee of the official inauguration in Barcelona of the International Year of Light, an event in which more than 700 people from academia, industry and general public attended. We also created the Young Photonics Congress, a scientific congress directed to young minds, which this year celebrates its 6th edition.

The International Year of Light not only gave a push to my own career but triggered many outreach activities that have sustained over the years and that have led to several international initiatives such as the ECOP initiative PHABLABS 4.0 or the currently running CARLA project, coordinated by us. CARLA aims at creating innovative photonics career camps directed to undergraduate university students, master students, PhD students and early career postdocs.

Starting with the International Year of Light, I have been privileged to take part in many activities and dissemination actions that have reached millions of people across Europe, giving visibility to the impact and opportunities that light-based science and technologies contribute to the wellbeing of our society, and look forward to many more.
Dan Curticapean (Germany)

Dan Curticapean is a Professor of Physics at the Professor at the University of Applied Sciences (Hochschule) Offenburg in Germany where he teaches courses from basic introductory physics to advanced optical design using the latest multimedia technologies. His research interests are wide and include topics such as imaging, sensing and augmented reality, and he has developed a particular focus on research-oriented education in photonics. The University of Applied Sciences Offenburg is a German university of the state of Baden-Wuerttemberg. It is one of the most important educational institutions in the southern Upper Rhine area with over 4,000 students. Photo credit: Offenburg University. 

I first learned about the International Year of Light around 2012 when I served on the Education Committee of the International Society for Optics and Photonics SPIE.  My own interests have always strongly been oriented to education, and I immediately saw the potential to use light as a theme to encourage more students into science and to promote interdisciplinary projects combining photonics with art.  I was delighted to be able to help out and develop supporting material for as the project worked through the complex process with the United Nations.  Together with my students, we created a Magic of Light project to assemble an online map that showed how the international photonics community was mobilizing. We accompanied this by designing postcards and posters that were distributed worldwide, and eventually found their way to United Nations Headquarters in New York!

One of the great pleasures of being a professor is learning so much from students and colleagues.  And it was with them that I had the privilege of participating in the inauguration of the International Year of Light in 2015, where we set up the first live social media projection to ever be shown inside UNESCO Headquarters.  During 2015, my students and I were actively involved in many other national and international events, including live streaming of the lunar eclipse on 28 September. 

The International Year of Light brought together different communities around a common objective of using light as a means of education.  And since the proclamation of the International Day of Light in 2018, I have continued to be part of the organizational team, helping out wherever I can.  Awareness of the power of science and technology is important for everyone, not just scientists, and we all have a role in communicating this message! 
Noel Alberto Cruz Venegas (Mexico, Canada)

Noel Alberto Cruz Venegas is an experimental particle astrophysicist, working at the Arthur B. McDonald Canadian Astroparticle Physics Research Institute, and currently an M.Sc. candidate at the University of Alberta in Canada. He obtained a BSc in Physics from the National Autonomous University of Mexico, and has worked as research assistant in an underground lab (-2 km, PICO-SNOLAB), a nuclear reactor (0 km, PROSPECT-ORNL) and high mountain experiments (+4 km, GTM & LAGO – INAOE).  His successful career has been recognized by the Mexican Government with the Oaxaca Youth Prize 2018 for academic achievement, one of the categories of the Mexican Honors System.

I was born inear Xitla (Monjas, Oaxaca, Mexico), and grew up in a farming family where there was no immediate aim to aspire to an academic career. But when looking at the beauty of the night skies above Monjas, I was inspired to try to understand, and this led me to a career in physics.

In the early years of my BSc studies in Physics in 2013, I started Luces del Campo, Lights in the Field, a scientific outreach project in the Southern Mountains of Mexico, a rural area where only fireflies and the Moon were the most intense light sources. This experience cemented my desire to learn the art of communicating the scientific ideas that continually modify and shape our perception of reality, and to use light as a metaphor to overcome the darkness of social and technological poverty.  Since its inception, more than 5000 students have taken part. 

When I heard of the International Day of Light in 2018, I was immediately excited to have the opportunity to become involved as a Science Communicator, and organized and participated in an event at the Cuauhtémoc Elementary School, which was named in honor of a celebrated Aztec emperor. This school was in my hometown, and returning of course created a rainbow of feelings. But although my original teachers were no longer there, I was delighted to see the same spirit of curiosity and discovery amongst the children. And with the help of just a laser, some transparent jelly, and coloured lights, I was delighted to be able to simultaneously bring education and happiness to a new generation, and perhaps open their eyes to a science career in the future.

I have already had the privilege of collaborating on several large experiments on sub-atomic physics in North America. I am especially attracted by the ability of experiments to reveal a detailed understanding of nature on all levels, and the way in which they can lead to unexpected new discoveries. But always accompanying my own study and research, I maintain a passion for education and community.  And as an underrepresented Latino minority, my aim is to enhance the popularity of STEM careers amongst those who perhaps would never have considered it. A message that I have learned during my own career so far, and one I always try to communicate, is that Science is familia (a family)! In this context, I would like to dedicate this short feature to my friend Gerardo R. Tristan who passed away - In Memoriam: Ikniutzin.

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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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