The Northernmost SPIE Student Chapter in the world

Finland has been a consistent and successful innovator in the field of lasers and optics; through the miniaturization now possible through small solid-state devices this area is collectively known as “Photonics” since it has many parallels to electronics. A more recent trend has been the mapping of this technology in life-sciences and medicine, commonly known now as “biophotonics”.

Biophotonics is proving to be a fast growing and very exciting area of research which has the potential to offer new tools and diagnostic methods for life-sciences, medicine, clinical requirements, food sciences, as well as in pharmaceutical, healthcare products and cosmetic industries. Biophotonic methods are fast and often non-contact thus offering significant advantages in a number of practical applications. The European Union (EU) is backing up biophotonics as a key driver in its economic and healthcare plans. It has a great potential for many industrial sectors in Europe and world-wide and will have an even greater socio-economic benefit from earlier, more accurate diagnoses and more targeted therapies.

The research activities in the Optoelectronics and Measurement Techniques Laboratory at the University of Oulu have been focused on biophotonics and associated sensor and measurement technologies over the last 20 years. The Laboratory is actively involved in a number of international collaborative projects in the framework of Photonics Finland (, Photonics4Life (, Baltic Sea Research Network NanoPhoto (, Biophotonics4Life (BP4L) Worldwide Consortium ( and other national (Photonics Finland, and international networks of excellence. The Laboratory provides dedicated opportunities and support for students and young researchers.

These efforts and achievements were recognized by the International Society of Optics and Photonics (SPIE) – a non-for-profit educational society promoting optics and photonics in the areas of research and education, with more than 18000 members around the world. This year the SPIE Student Chapter was founded in the University of Oulu, based on the Optoelectronics and Measurement Techniques Laboratory, headed by Fellow and Life member of SPIE Professor Igor Meglinski. It is very exciting and symbolic that SPIE Student Chapter in the University of Oulu has been established in 2015 – the year announced by the United Nations as the International Year of Light and Light-based Technologies (

This is the first SPIE Student Chapter in Finland and the most northern one in the world, total of 285. SPIE offers a number of benefits for their chapters’ students, including travel grants, scholarships, funding to host world-leading scientists and optics industry leaders, and to support student events. The chapters also provide students with the resources for developing their professional skills, particularly leadership and management skills, which they might not otherwise receive at universities.

The SPIE Student Chapter in Oulu is growing fast with about 20 members at the moment. The chapter students actively participate in many biophotonics-based and related activities and initiatives in Finland, across Europe and worldwide. The Chapter organized a visit to a local school to share the exiting science of light with the youngsters. The Chapter’s students regularly participate in major international conferences, e.g. European Conferences on Biomedical Optics in Munich (Germany), SPIE Photonics West in San Francisco (USA) and others.

This month, being presenting the Chapter and chapter activities at the SPIE Optics + Photonics conference in San Diego (USA), the Chapter's president Ms Olga Bibikova won a prize for the best prediction of how the photonics will change the world in the next 60 years. Early this year she was also awarded with the Bronze award at the Current Trends in Cancer Theranostics conference in Jena (Germany). Six other students were awarded with the travel grants to attend PHOTONICA summer school in Belgrade (Serbia) and summer school “Photonics meets biology” in Crete (Greece).

Inspired by this quick success, the Chapter aims to promote science in the local community by organizing public lectures, inviting internationally leading scientists via SPIE visiting lecturers program, and further developing outreach activity for children in Oulu and beyond. All these actions and emphasis on training are to ensure the future of the Biophotonics and related industrial sectors. The enthusiasts from the most northern in the world SPIE Student Chapter believe that these efforts will definitely open new horizons, will find the place in hearts and minds of youngsters and eventually will bring new talented people to the field and provide economic growth in the region and world-wide.


Last updated: 25.9.2015