Celebrating the International Day of Light Can Illuminate the Future

Celebrating the International Day of Light Can Illuminate the Future

By Xiang Dai, former vice president of OSA student chapter, Changchun University of Science and Tech.


Optics, a word from the ancient Greek language, means, “To look,”—the physical act of allowing light to come into our eyes to form images. But the word also refers to the future, some most-distant point in time where we would focus our gaze and attention.

International Day of Light volunteers from the OSA student chapter at Changchun University of Science and Technology, China.

Credit: Xiang Dai

It was this second definition of optics that guided the 2015 International Year of Light and Light-based Technologies, organized by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). With more than 13,000 activities that took place in 147 countries, IYL was a celebration of the science of light, which we also call optics.

Now, every May 16, we celebrate the International Day of Light (IDL) commemorating the first successful operation of a laser in 1960.

The more we understand the beauty and the power of the technology of light, the more we want to apply it to improve daily life in regards to science, culture, art, education and sustainable development. The first IDL in 2018 was celebrated in more than 87 countries with special events highlighting the importance of lasers at UNESCO headquarters in France. 

We, the student chapter of The Optical Society (OSA) from Changchun University of Science and Technology, China, responded positively to a call from UNESCO and OSA to design our own IDL celebrations. We held three events targeted to different audiences making use of an OSA toolkit for IDL called, the “Optical Suitcase” as well as a “Showcase” provided by the Changchun Optics Science and Technology Museum in China.

First, we started youth education in a nearby primary school. Second, we conducted a workshop called “How to write an English paper” for students who were interested in working a thesis. And for the third event, we held a treasure hunt on our campus that we called “Light Chaser.” We used basic knowledge of optics to build up puzzles as clues and set up several checkpoints for students to guide their hunt.

Students gather to view a demonstration during a youth education event celebrating the International Day of Light at Northeast Normal Universty Second Affiliated Elementary School, China, on 16 May 2018.

Credith: Xiang Dai

We are about to celebrate IDL 2019 on 16 May. An IDL conference will be held in Italy at a UNESCO institute there with a theme of “Illuminating Education.” There will be a wide range of topics presented, from inspiring science to practical career advice.

The keynote speaker of the conference is IDTP Distinguished Lecturer Sir Michael Berry from the University of Bristol, U.K. He will give a presentation entitled “Optica Fantastica:  Engaging Interest and Promoting Science Outreach.” Other presentations will relate to developments in the science of light, international collaborations, education, career development and more.

A great highlight of IDL 2019 will be a session for students from international student networks representing professional societies EPS, IEEE, OSA, SPIE, IAPS. The students will have a discussion about how they promote science outreach and how they see careers in science developing in the future. I will honorably attend and participate in the conference and represent OSA in this discussion. I feel excited and thankful to have this great opportunity to exchange ideas with representatives from different organizations. The creative ideas and activities will not only be of great help for youth education work within OSA, but also an update for myself towards my future career in science.

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Posted: 17 April 2019 by Xiang Dai, former vice president of OSA student chapter, Changchun University of Science and Tech. | with 0 comments