Looking Ahead at the Advanced Solid State Lasers Conference

Clara Saraceno photo

Clara Saraceno [Image: Courtesy of C. Saraceno]

This year’s hybrid Advanced Solid State Lasers Conference (ASSL) is set to take place in Barcelona, Spain, from 11 to 15 December—a quick reschedule after the original host city, Prague, Czechia, had to cancel all existing commitments when Czechia was selected to hold the presidency of the European Union. OPN talked to one of the general chairs, Clara Saraceno, an electrical engineering professor at Ruhr-Universität Bochum, Germany, to learn about the conference and her role as a chair.

What is ASSL?

It’s one of the few truly international conferences that covers all laser-related aspects—a relatively small conference with wide impact. At ASSL, you really see people from all over the world. It’s a conference that really integrates all sorts of laser-related topics, including nonlinear optics, ultrafast optics, continuous-wave lasers, fiber lasers and so on. It basically covers all the technologies around lasers, which makes the conference really rich.

Even though the conference is really about the laser technology itself and laser applications are not directly covered, because it happens alongside the Laser Applications Conference, there are topical synergies. The applications side and the source side come together under one umbrella.

How did you get involved in the conference?

I was invited to join the committee in 2017 as a regular committee member. I always liked organizing conferences, so I've been involved in many of them, especially Optica conferences. And I particularly like ASSL because it is one of the very few pure laser conferences. So I accepted the invitation.

After working as a committee member, I was nominated to become a program chair and served for two years. And then I naturally evolved into a general chair, which makes this year my last year serving for ASSL.

What does a general chair do?

A big part of the job is to oversee all the different processes so that they go according to plan. You need to be in contact with the program chairs, making sure that the programs’ invited talks are coherent with the plenaries. It’s our job, also, to select the plenaries in discussion with the program chairs, making sure to have the strongest programs possible. The responsibilities also include attracting abstract submissions and sponsors and advertising the conference. So, in principle, everything that it takes to make the conference strong.

Another thing chairs do at the beginning is to come up with special sessions that are relevant to the time of the conference. So if there are anniversaries of a certain important technology—for example, this year was the 30th anniversary of OPCPA [optical parametric chirped-pulse amplification]—then we’ll try to come up with special sessions.

What can conference goers expect this year?

Plenary talk

Clara Saraceno giving a plenary talk at the 2019 Laser Congress, which the Advanced Solid State Lasers Conference is a part of. [Image: Optica]

The program is shaping up to be really nice. The program chairs have put together a very nice session on OPCPA technology. And the plenary speakers are real luminaries—Martin Fejer is giving a plenary talk, which definitely is a highlight.

I always think the short courses are extremely strong at ASSL. I think, for students, short courses are always a great opportunity to interact with people who are good teachers in addition to being good researchers. We managed to put together some really good courses on laser sources and materials. Having both is always very important for students working in the laser field to really see that link between the two. They learn about the components that they’re using and the science behind them.

What are you expecting in terms of attendance?

There are so many factors that it is very difficult to predict at this moment. The conference was supposed to be at the end of October, and then it had to be shifted to December, which could affect the attendance a little bit. But I assume that having it in Barcelona will help—it’s an attractive location. So I hope that we come close to the numbers that we had before the pandemic. We’re doing our best to advertise it and make the best program possible.


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