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: Emanuele Galiffi
Vice President: Sarunas Jurgilas
Secretary: Anita Chandran
Treasurer: Paul Dichtl

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.

London Optics Masterclass Series

Plasmonics, 2D optics, and nonlinear optics of graphene

Philippe Tassin, Chalmers University of Technology

Date: 3rd December 2019,  3:00pm.
Location: Imperial College London, South Kensington Campus, Huxley 503



I will give an overview of graphene plasmonics. Graphene is a two-dimensional, one-atom-thick layer of carbon atoms and permits surface excitations called surface plasmons. I will first discuss the optics of graphene using so-called semiconductor Bloch equations. This will lead to a characterization of graphene in terms of its surface conductivity. Subsequently, I will derive the dispersion relation of graphene surface plasmons and show some recent experimental results visualizing the plasmons. Graphene plasmons can potentially be used in a number of different ways, e.g., for two-dimensional wave front engineering and for tunable metamaterials. One of the advantages of graphene plasmons is that optical energy is highly localized very close to the graphene surface, giving rise to very sensitive refractive index sensors. I will end the first part of my lecture with a discussion of challenges related to graphene plasmonics. Graphene sheets can also be structured to obtain localized plasmon resonances and metasurfaces, of which I will discuss a number of examples. Here one of the advantages of graphene is its electric gate tunability. Finally, I will shortly describe some recent results about the nonlinear optics of graphene.



Philippe Tassin teaches physics and optics and leads a research group on electromagnetic structured media at Chalmers University of Technology. He was born in Belgium and lived in several countries at both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. At the age of 17, he won a bronze medal at the International Chemistry Olympiad. Graduating in electrical engineering and applied physics, he obtained a M.Sc. degree and a Ph.D. degree from the Free University of Brussels, both summa cum laude. After his doctoral studies, he had postdoctoral appointments at Iowa State University and Ames Laboratory. Dr. Tassin is now an associate professor at Chalmers. His research interests encompass the physics of electromagnetic structured materials and systems, including metamaterials, plasmonics, and nanophotonics. His research has led to well-cited publications in scientific journals, including papers in Science, Nature Photonics, and Physical Review Letters, and he is frequently asked to deliver invited talks at international conferences. His research has been recognized by awards and fellowships from IEEE, SPIE, and the Flemish Research Foundation, and he recently received the BAEF Alumni Award from the Belgian-American Educational Foundation and the Frans Van Cauwelaert Award from the Royal Flemish Academy of Belgium for Science and the Arts. Dr. Tassin is also an editor of the journal “Photonics and Nanostructures.” He is a member of the Young Academy of Sweden and a senior member of SPIE and IEEE. He is a founding member and board member of the IEEE Photonics Sweden Chapter. He is also active in the promotion of science and technology to the public and to students.Tassin


















PT symmetry - Physics in the complex domain

Prof. Carl Bender, Washington University

Date: 25th June 2:00pm.
Location: Imperial College London, South Kensington Campus, Blackett Laboratories, room B539


Complex-variable theory provides insight into the nature of physical 
theories. For example, it provides a simple and beautiful picture of
quantization and it explains the underlying reason for the divergence of 
perturbation theory. By using complex-variable methods one can
generalize conventional Hermitian quantum theories into the complex 
domain. The result is an exciting new class of parity-time-symmetric
(PT-symmetric) theories whose remarkable physical properties are currently 
under intense study by theorists and experimentalists. Many
theoretical predictions have been verified in recent laboratory 


 Towards Biomedical Spectroscopy and Imaging with Fibre MIR Supercontinuum Light

Angela B SeddonUniversity of Nottingham,

Date: 11th April 2:30pm.
Location: Imperial College London, South Kensington Campus, Blackett Laboratories, room B539


A new paradigm in mid-infrared (MIR) biophotonics is opening up. The idea is for portable, real-time, MIR spectroscopic sensing and imaging in healthcare, including for real-time, in vivo cancer diagnosis, based on new MIR fibreoptics. At the heart of the MIR fibreoptic approach are brand new fibre MIR-supercontinuum broadband laser sources. Supercontinuum (SC) generation, first reported by Robert Alfano, is a process whereby narrow-line laser light is converted to light of broad spectral bandwidth with high spatial coherence. Our demonstration of a chalcogenide-glass fibre MIR-SC from 1.4 microns to 13.3 microns spectral range was the first truly to reveal the potential of MIR fibres to emit across the MIR molecular ”fingerprint region” and a key first step towards portable, broadband MIR sources for real-time MIR molecular sensing. Now the photonic technology is in place to develop a new MIR technology platform based on MIR fibreoptics and these novel SC broadband, fibre lasers (>1000x brighter than conventional blackbody sources e.g. Globar©). Today, the ‘Gold Standard’ for identification of disease, including cancer, remains histopathology. A rapid, on-the-spot MIR optical biopsy would allow a single procedure, saving costs, avoid the wait for results and reduce patient stress. The Masterclass will first demonstrate the clinical need, then introduce the necessary MIR glass science and technology for fibreoptics and review progress in tissue imaging using fibre MIR-SC sources, working towards their application in vivo.



Quantum fluids of light

Alejandro Soto Zamora, University College London

Date: 26th February 2pm.
Location: Imperial College London, South Kensington Campus, Blackett Laboratories, room B539


Driven-dissipative systems in two dimensions can differ substantially from their equilibrium counterparts. Particularly, quantum fluids of light, such as exciton-polaritons in microcavities, constitute paradigmatic cases of non-equilibirum physics. These quantum systems, which appear as a consequence of the hybridization between light and excitons, are not isolated due to the existence of i) an external pumping laser that maintains a finite density of polaritons ii) a non-zero dissipation due to the leaking of cavity photons through the mirrors. The subtle interplay between the external drive and the cavity losses may drive the system to exotic and genuinely non-equilibrium phases. Moreover, demonstrations of polariton lattices in semiconductor microcavities, in combination with their extraordinary non-linear properties, place these quantum-fluids of light as one of the most promising candidates to achieve quantum simulation in compact on-chip scalable platforms. In this lecture I will give an introduction to the physics of quantum fluids of light and the different techniques in order to study the static and dynamical properties of such non-equilibrium systems. I will review the state of the art of this particular field and will mention different open questions and future research topics concerning microcavity polaritons and non-equilibrium systems. 



Transformation optics 

Sebastien Guenneau, Fresnel Institute, CNRS

Date: 8th February 4pm.
Location: Imperial College London, South Kensington Campus, Blackett Laboratories, room B539

Transformation optics


Transformation Optics (TO) amounts to making a coordinate change in Maxwell’s equations so as to obtain heterogeneous anisotropic materials allowing for a control of light rays, in a way similar to layers of air of different temperatures with a varying index of refraction curving light trajectories in mirages.  An alternation of concentric layers of varying refractive index according to TO makes invisibility cloaks possible, and the first prototype of microwave cloak was engineered and experimentally validated by Sir John Pendry and his colleagues at Duke University back in 2006. We will see that it should be possible to hide small scatterers outside an external cloak designed with negatively refracting layers, according to TO, and this has been experimentally validated for microwaves by our group at Institut Fresnel, in collaboration with Ross McPhedran at Sydney University. Moreover, extension of TO to mechanical waves opens new vistas for application of invisibility to wave protection in maritime and civil engineering in the years ahead.


Nanoscale chirality and superchirality 

Paolo BiagioniPhysics Department, Politecnico di Milano.

Date: 25th January, 3pm.
Location: Imperial College London, South Kensington Campus, Blackett Laboratories, room B539



In nano-optics, the ability to control the field polarization is of crucial importance for the extension of many optical techniques towards sub-diffraction resolutions and high sensitivities. In particular, enhanced chiral near fields allow for circular dichroism spectroscopy at the nanoscale on extremely low amounts of analytes.

Recently, novel ‘superchiral’ approaches have been proposed to enhance the sensitivity of light to the molecular chirality by tailoring the properties of the electromagnetic field through the control of the associated ‘optical chirality’. In this framework, plasmonicchiral sensing holds exciting perspectives that are being investigatedbut several issues have also been discussed.

In this lecture I will review the challenges and achievements related to both the confinement and the enhancement of circularly-polarized electromagnetic fields and to their exploitation for nanoscale and surface-enhanced chiropticalspectroscopies. We will cover the underlying theoretical framework, the typical experimental techniques, and the most recent results, moving through a range of implementations that include scanning near-field optical microscopy,metal nanoantennasanddielectric structures.

Past events

Invited lecturer Roberto Morandotti

October 11th, 2018

Prof. Morandotti is active in a vast range of research areas including nonlinear optics, optoelectronics and biophotonics. During his visit to Imperial College via the SPIE travelling lecturer programme Prof. Morandotti gave a lecture on his most recent work on generating quantum states using high Q microring resonators. During the day of visit we also showed around some of the research labs at Imperial.

Prof. Morandotti at the femtosecond laser lab


Invited lecturer Andrea Alu

October 1st, 2018

Prof. Alù has, over the last decade, established himself as a world leader in Photonics, Acoustics and Metamaterials, and so it was a great priviledge to host him as one of our 2018 invited speakers, thanks to the support of OSA to its student chapter at Imperial via the Travelling Lecturer Programme. Prof. Alu discussed his recent activity in electromagnetics and acoustics, showing how suitably tailored meta-atoms and their arrangements open exciting venues for cloaking and scattering suppression, nonreciprocity and topological phenomena.

Prof. Andrea Alu


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.