The Imperial College London Optical Society is a postgraduate-led organisation aiming to bring together researchers in the field of optics and photonics and to promote the science and application of light to the wider community. We are a student chapter of both the Optical Society (OSA) and the International Society for Optics and Photonics (SPIE). 

We try to organise social events each term for Imperial College students, varying from evenings with a few drinks to laser chess tournaments, in addition to a lunchtime seminar series of talks from invited research and industrial leaders. We are also active in promoting optics and photonics to the public through outreach activities with local schools and exhibitions at national science fairs. If you're interested in our society delivering an outreach exhibit / talk for your event, please get in touch:

Optical Society events at Imperial are usually open to all postgraduates, although we encourage students to consider applying for membership of OSA and/or SPIE. In addition to the personal benefits of joining such an organisation, our funding from these organisations depends on student membership, so we need your support.

More information


President: Paul Dichtl
Vice President: Sarunas Jurgilas
Secretary: Emanuele Galiffi
Treasurer: Timur Avni

Academic Advisor: Martin McCall

If you're interesting in helping to run the society, now or in the future, please contact us as there are always opportunities for getting involved.

Upcoming events

Two lectures by distinguished researchers this October

Past events

Imperial science festival

April 2018

The last weekend of April some of us from the optics society spent two days doing optics outreach for the general public at the Imperial science festival. We explained the basic topics in optics such as diffraction, dispersion, refraction and some more advanced subjects such as lasers or liquid crystals with the aid of interactive demonstrations. The younger participants of the festival seemed to have enjoyed laser chess the most, for some it was a great mystery the way a laser beam travelled around peaces by bouncing from multiple mirrors.

Imperial festival

Invited lecturer Mauro F. Pereira

December 2017

Prof Pereira giving a lecture to Imperial College research students

This year’s invited lecture was delivered by Professor Mauro F. Pereira on the generation and applications of TERA-MIR (Terahertz and mid-infrared) radiation. Professor Pereira did not only talk about the physics of TERA-MIR radiation but also included an overview of his collaborations and earlier research topics. At the social after the lecture, we had an opportunity to talk about career plans in academia with helpful advice by Professor Pereira.




Imperial College London Festival

9th - 10th May 2015
The Imperial Festival - a two-day event showcasing the best in science and arts at the college - is back and bigger than ever before! This year, there's a whole area dedicated to optics and light-based technologies, The Light Zone, with plenty of hands-on activities and demonstrations for all ages. Find out more at: 

Light Late at the London Science Museum

27th May 2015
The London Science Museum is a hosting an International Year of Light Late - an opportunity to explore the musem after-hours with many light-based activites: from exploring cosmic light and the northern lights, to discovering how lasers are used in distilling whiskey and how sun light is used to generate electricity to power your home. Imperial College will be presenting numerous optical activities too. Find out more at: 

Visit from University of Lund OSA / SPIE Student Chapter

March 2015 (supported by OSA Professional Development Grant)
Students from the University of Lund OSA/SPIE Chapter visited our society to explore the optics and photonics research at Imperial and to share ideas and best practices for running an optical society. Seven visitors from Lund spent two days in London, relaxing with members of the Imperial OSA/SPIE chapter and visiting labs here, in addition to attending a lecture by Nobel Laureate Claude Cohen-Tannoudji.

Group Visit

Imperial Optical Society members with visitors from the University of Lund





'Lit Up' Imperial Fringe Festival for the International Year of Light

February 2015
Imperial College kick-started International Year of Light activities with a Fringe Festival dedicated to optical science, applications and art. Over 500 members of the public visited the mini-festival to explore colour-changing beetles, laser microscopes, home-made spectrometers and much more.

Fringe Festival

Visitors explored many light and light-based technologies at the 'Lit Up' Fringe Festival





IYL Exhibition after Imperial Schrödinger Lecture

12th November 2014

The Erwin Schrödinger Lecture is an annual event at Imperial named after the noted Austrian scientist. Following the 2014 lecture by Nobel Laureate Prof. Serge Haroche, a small exhbition was held to showcase some of Imperial's optics research.

A video of the full lecture can be found here.


Demonstration of supercontinuum generation in optical fibre


Prof. Chris Dainty Lecture & Drinks Reception

4th November 2014 (sponsored by OSA)

Prof. Chris Dainty, past president of OSA and former Head of Applied Optics at Imperial, visited us in the Blackett Laboratory to launch our activities for the new academic year. He delivered a lecture on "Image Science and Mobile Phone Cameras" to a packed lecture theatre, followed by a drinks reception in h-bar. For new students who attended the event, don't forget to register for student membership from OSA and SPIE, or speak to a member of the society committee for more information.

Prof. Dainty

Prof. Chris Dainty lecture and drinks reception in h-bar




'Big Bang Near Me' Outreach Event at Sutton Grammar School

8th July 2014
The Imperial Optical Society hosted an interactive 'Photonics: Optics in Action' exhibit at the 'Big Bang Near Me' science fair at Sutton Grammar School. The one-day event attracted over 1000 students and visitors, who seemed to enjoy our fun optical demonstrations and laser games, in addition to seeing how photonic technologies underpin much of what we take for granted today in our day-to-day lives.

Big Bang Near Me

Photonics: Optics in Action, at the Big Bang Near Me Science Fair, Sutton Grammar School



BIGSS Summer School at NUI Galway

June 2014
Khushi Vyas, 2013-14 outreach coordinator, attended the Biophotonics and Imaging Graduate Summer School (BIGSS) at NUI Galway, which offered a platform for multidisciplinary learning in biophotonics and fostering communication across several disciplines. Over 50 graduate students and early-career professionals attended and in addition to talks and workshops, a busy social programme including a river cruise, barbeque and gala dinner made it a very enjoyable event. Khushi was also selected as a guest blogger for SPIE and you can read her full account of the event here.


BIGSS attendees prior to a busy week of biophotonics in Galway




Visit and Seminar from SPIE President, Dr Philip Stahl

June 2014
We were pleased to welcome SPIE President Dr Philip Stahl and SPIE CEO Dr Eugene Arthurs to our student chapter at Imperial College, and Dr Stahl also delivered an interesting talk on the progress of the James Webb Space Telescope, due to launch in 2018. 

Imperial Optical Society members and advisors with SPIE President, Dr Philip Stahl, and SPIE CEO, Dr Eugene Arthurs

Imperial Optical Society members and advisors with SPIE President, Dr Philip Stahl, and SPIE CEO, Dr Eugene Arthurs




Industrial Collaboration with M Squared Lasers

2014 - Ongoing
M Squared Lasers are based in Scotland and develop next-generation diode-pumped lasers and photonic technologies. We are developping a collaboration to introduce chapter members to industrial photonic opportunit ies, to explore new research projects and to promote entrepreneurship in photonics. To date, co-founder and CEO, Dr Graeme Malcolm, has visited Imperial to speak on the topic of business opportunities in photonics and a group of Imperial students attended an M Squared Technology Summit at the London Stock Exchange. More events and opportunities to be announced...

Imperial students attended an M Squared Technology Summit at the London Stock Exchange

Imperial students at tended an M Squared Technology Summit at the London Stock Exchange




Lunchtime Seminar with Prof. David Andrews, University of East Anglia

May 2014
Prof . David Andrews, leader of the nanophotonics and qu antum electrodynamics resea rch group at the University of East Anglia and a director of SPIE, delivered a lunchtime seminar on his research in manipulating light an the nanoscale to a packaged lecture theatre, followed by refreshments.

Prof. David Andrews delivering his lunchtime seminar

Prof. David Andrews delivering his lunchtime seminar



Visit to NUIG OSA Student Co nference

April 2014
Imperial College London Optical Society members visited National University of Ireland, Galway for an OSA student conference, with invited lectures from leading academic and industrial researchers in the UK. This furthered the collaboration between Imperial and NUIG student chapters in addition to b eing a fun and informative day.

Imperial College London Optical Society Members at Photonics West

February 2014
Felicity McGrath (2014 Vice President) and Steffen Driever (2014 Social Secretary) both presented papers at Photonics West in addition to atte nding the SPIE Student Chapter Leadership Workshop. Steffen also picked up two prizes: the 'Best Student Paper Award' sponsored by Femtolasers and a Newport Travel Grant!


Steffen Driever (Imperial) receiving the Best Student Paper Award. Pictured with conference chair Prof. Markus Betz and Femtolasers representative Dr. Catalin Neacsu.



Visit to NUIG SPIE Student Chapter

January 2014
Felicity McGrath (2014 Vice President) visited the National University of Ireland, Galway (NUIG) SPIE Student Chapter in Ireland to share experiences and ideas for running a student chapter and to plan future joint events between NUIG and Imperial College London.

NUIG Visit

Felicity McGrath (ICL, 2014 Vice President), Haroon Zafar (NUIG, President), Sean O Gorman (NUIG, member).



Welcome Drinks' for New Students

November 2013
The first social event for the new academic year attracted many students with the draw of free drinks and pizza, in addition to laser chess and a chance to see some of the society's outreach activities. 

Social20 13

Enjoying free SPIE stash and laser chess


OSA Student Chapters Meeting at Frontiers in Optics Conference

October 2013 (Supported by OSA Travel Grant)
Felicity McGrath (2013 President) attended the OSA Student Chapters meeting to represent our Optical Society at the Frontiers in Optics conference, Florida. 


OSA student chapter meeting in Florida



'Exploring Photonics' Outreach Day

September 2013 (Supported by OSA Youth Education Grant)
A-level physics students from nearby schools were invited to Imperial College Physics Department for a day of interactive workshops and lectures exploring optical concepts and their applications. Demonstrations varie d from making objects disappear to a home-made nitrogen laser and students applied optical theory to measure the data capacity of CDs & DVDs using diffraction and to build telescopes. Over 35 students attended the event and the response was very positive. We hope to host a similar event next year.

Exploring Photonics



SPIE Student Leadership Workshop at Optics + Photonics Conference

August 2013 (Supported by SPIE Student Chapter Officer Travel Grant)
Robert Woodward (2013 Vice-President) attended the SPIE Student Leadership Workshop as part of the Optics + Photonics Conference in San Diego, USA. The event provided a chance to meet SPIE student chapter representatives from around the world and a relaxed setting for sharing ideas and experiences.

Group Photo

SPIE student chapter representatives from across the gl obe met in San Diego



Imperial Optical Soc iety Exhibition at Big Bang London

3rd - 4th July 2013, Westminster Kingsway College (Supported by SPIE Education Outreach Grant)
Big Bang London is an annual interactive and inspiring event for school children made up of science, technology and engineering workshops and exhibitions. The event runs over two days and attracts around 3000 students, aged 9-19.  

For the 2013 Big Bang Fair, we ran an 'Optics in Action' exhibit with fun, interactive experiments to raise awareness of the wide breadth of applications of optics and photonics and to encourage students to consider how fundamen tal opti cal concepts can be used to build complex real-world systems. We were kept very busy with a continual flow of visitors wanting to try out our experiments and laser game, and we hope that we broadened students' ideas of optics and its applications.

Big Bang

Ben Chapman (2011-2012 President) demonstrating pol arisation to visitors at the Big Bang Lon don science fair




Lunchtime Seminar with Prof. Steve Jacques from Oregon Health and Science University, USA

June 2013
Prof. Jacques gave a fascinating talk on the topic of 'optically probing the nanoarchitecture of cells and tissues' followed by a chance for Imperial postgraduates to discuss their research with him. We also hosted postgraduate students from National University of Ireland, Galway (NUIG), who visite d us to attend the lecture.

Steve Jacques Visit

From the l eft: Prof. Steve Jacques, Ro b Woodward (Vice President), Felicity McGrath (President), Kai Neuhaus (NUIG Student Chapter representative)




Lunchtime Seminar with Prof. Brian Culshaw from University of Strathclyde

November 2012
Prof. Culshaw delivered the inaugural Optical Society lunchtime seminar, entitled 'fibre optic sensors from fundamental research to practi cal realisation'. The event was well attended and we look forward to hosting more lunchtime seminars in the future.

Brian Culshaw

Prof. Brian Culshaw presenting the inaugural lunchtime seminar


Ongoing Events

Practical Journal Club

Every Wednesday 4-5 pm, Huxley 503

The Optical Society sponsors a Practical Journal Club at Imperial, which consists of a series of tutorial-style, hands-on sessions on specific topics, often centered on mathematical techniques, in theoretical optics, plasmonics and related subjects. The sessions are led by PhD students, Research Assistants and Staff Members.

The sessions take place every Wednesday 4-5 pm in Huxley 503. If you are interested, please join the mailing list via the following link:

If you would like to lead one of the sessions, please contact Emanuele Galiffi at:

A small refreshment is provided during each session.