Being an OSA member, I got the opportunity to attend a conference held at Indian Institute of Science Education and Research, Kolkata (IISER-K) from 18th -19th December 2017, on “Contemporary Trends in Optics 2017: From Atoms to Stars (CoOpt-2017)”. The very title thrilled me. With the chills of the thrill and weather I represented the Manipal OSA Student Chapter.
The conference was jointly organized by the Student Chapters of SPIE, OSA of IISER-K along with the Centre of Excellence in Space Sciences India (CESSI) with the support of the host institute.
The conference came about during our winter break. After travelling about 42 km by train I reached Kalyani Railway Station, followed by another 9 km journey by bus reached me to my destination. The weather there was cold and foggy, and the organizers said that winter is the best time to visit the campus. The 201- acre campus of the institute houses three hostels, among which I was allotted one. People there were quite approachable and the organizers were particularly very hospitable, especially the free wi-fi password that I got.
On the morning of 18th December’17 the conference began sharp at nine. After entering the conference hall I realized that most of the delegate population was constituted either by MS or PhD students. The first day was divided into two sessions Classical optics and Quantum optics.
Chaired by Prof. Ayan Banerjee, the classical optics session had Prof. Giovanni Volpe from the University of Gothenburg, Prof. Subhasish Dutta Gupta of University of Hyderabad, Prof. Sushil Majumdar of TIFR as the speakers.
I found Prof. Volpe’s talk quite understandable, even though his talk was on “Active Matter in Complex and Crowded Environments: Optical manipulation, Phototaxis and Nonequilibrium Physics”. His lab works with living crystals and the effect light has on it, they especially track the Brownian motion of these living crystals. As a Biology student I found it particularly interesting when he said that he also checks the Brownian motion of bacterial colony growth. When I asked him in person whether it is possible to find the movement of neuron synapses, he replied in positive. In fact, his lab did some work on amyloid plaques and Alzheimer’s disease.
Followed by that was the session where air became electric. Yes, it was quantum optics. The session was charged with questions darted across the hall amongst maverick quantum physicists, leaving me clueless most of the times.
The session had three speakers, namely, Prof. Saikat Ghosh from IIT Kanpur, Prof. Bimalendu Deb of IACS and Prof. S. Lakshmi Bala of IIT Madras. Also there was a Webinar talk by Prof. Fabien Bretenaker of Ecole Polytechnique.
As the first day was drawing to an end I was looking forward to the Biophotonics session of the following the day. After the conference on first day, I went to visit their biophysics lab with the PhD scholars.
Finally, my intellect receptors could collect some waves. All the three talks of the Biophotonics session on the second day seemed interesting, delivered by, Prof. Renu John of IIT Hyderabad, Prof. Shourya Dutta Gupta of IIT Hyderabad and Prof. Basudev Roy of IIT Madras. Prof. John’s talk revolved around the clinical application of Quantitative phase microscopy, his lab generated 3D images of various cell samples. Prof. Dutta Gupta’s lab is developing fast and non- destructive diagnostic techniques using plasmon enhanced infrared absorption spectroscopy. Prof. Roy’s talk concerned the topic “Optical Tweezers for determination of rotation in the mesoscopic domain”. His work mainly involves the movement of Kinesin molecules while carrying cargo on a microtubule during normal and low concentrations of ATP.
While conversing with Prof. S. Lakshmi Bala, I realized that she mistook me to be studying physics. On knowing that I have a Biology background, she told me, “Just like you don’t understand quantum physics, I don’t understand the complexity of biology”. I was amazed by her humbleness.
The fourth session was of Space optics. Prof. A N Ramprakash, Prof. Prashanth C Upadhya and Prof. Shibu K Matthew were the speakers of this last session. Their talks ranged from Sun spots due to solar magnetic fields to atomic clocks and observables.
Followed by this was prize distribution for the poster and oral presentations, and that marked the end of this eventful conference.
I realized that science is about the passion that leaves you unsettled. Along with my belongings I brought two more things back home, “the ladder with infinite rungs”, the one that you climb during the process of exploring and learning and “the recipe of Humble pie”. Well, by looking at the elite group of scientist I realized that they must have tasted the Humble pie for the modesty they own.
It was time to bid “Adieu!” with that my work of eavesdropping to gather titbits of information came to an end.
- -Shreya Tapaswi