andres marrugo

Attending LAOP

Last week I attended the OSA Latin America Optics and Photonics Conference in Lima, Peru. I had a great time, but above all, this was my first conference, since I started my lab, in which I didn’t feel so out of place. Let me elaborate. I knew several people that were attending the conference, I knew the work of some of them, and I was also comfortable talking to old and new acquaintances. What I felt was more reassuring, was presenting some of the work we’ve been doing in our lab for the past two years. I was proud to be presenting the work of my students, what we have accomplished with the available resources.

After starting from scratch about three years ago, we are now at a position to start contributing to the greater conversation in science and technology. During the conference, I took the time to finish a revision on a paper we had submitted to Applied Optics from the first results of my Ph.D. student. It is his first journal paper, and it is my first paper as a Ph.D. advisor. Exciting times! The day before traveling back to Colombia we found out it was accepted. An accepted paper is always something nice to celebrate, but each acceptance has a unique story, which only the authors know. We know.

At the conference, I met many colleagues working in different fields of optics, but I had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Arti Agrawal from the University of Technology Sidney. She is a theoretical physicist working on modeling and simulation in photonics. Amazing stuff. However, we met at a lunch organized by the conference for early career professionals and Ph.D. students about preparing presentations. I was amazed by the involvement of the OSA embassadors which were basically young professionals as well. Dr. Arti was overseeing the session and made insightful comments from time to time. I remembered when I was preparing for my Ph.D. defense several years ago. It seemed quite a challenge back then. I read many books about presentations and was quite mesmerized by the many ways one could go about producing a rich and entertaining presentation. But it takes time and practice. Actually, this is something I’ve written about before here.

I later had the opportunity to talk again with Dr. Arti. This time about a work I was presenting. She was inquiring about the type of optimization approach we had used, and why did we think it was the right one. As it often is the case, we had not explored other optimization approaches, and we used this one because we knew it and we thought it could give us the results we wanted. It mostly did, but we are now looking into doing something more general that avoids optimization loops. Let’s see how it goes.


Overall I had a great time in Lima. The food was fantastic and the organization of the event went quite well. Mostly, I enjoyed the networking possibilities that these events offer, as well as presenting our work and getting feedback from the community. My second presentation was the last day of the conference in the last session. In the photo, the final presenters in the session for 3D imaging.

I came back to Cartagena and talked with my students about the fascinating new topics being presented at LAOP, like Deep Learning in Optics, and also about several people working in optical metrology in the region. Exciting times for Latin America.