Photonics Days 2020: Connecting young talent with science and industry


Creativity meets career - this is probably the best way to describe the Photonics Days 2020, which were held under the motto #Create and #Connect. Once again, Fraunhofer IOF, together with the graduate school Max Planck School of Photonics, organized the career and networking event for students of optics and photonics – and this year it was completely digital. On September 21 and 22, participants from all over the world tinkered around during the virtual makeathon of the Lichtwerkstatt Jena, evaluated the innovative ideas of the pitching scientists at the “Hot Stuff Award” and networked with representatives of the German optics and photonics industry at the interactive career fair.


Photonics Days Jena

Bridging the gap between study and work with career prospects in science and industry

Prof. Andreas Tünnermann speaks to the online audience in a lecture hall standing in front of a green screen.
© Fraunhofer IOF
Prof. Andreas Tünnermann speaks via livestream to the participants of the virtual Photonics Days 2020.

"We are building a bridge to ease the transition into a professional career after graduation or finishing a doctorate. In addition to career paths in science and industry, we are also addressing the possibility of starting one’s own business," said Prof. Andreas Tünnermann, head of Fraunhofer IOF and the Institute for Applied Physics at the University of Jena, summarizing the aim of the event. Together with Prof. Walter Rosenthal, President of the Friedrich Schiller University of Jena, he welcomed all participants to the Photonics Days 2020 on the first day of the event. Due to the corona pandemic, the entire event was held completely virtually this year, which proved to be a great advantage - at least for the diversity of the participants. Students from all over the world - for example from India, Mexico, Iran and Finland - met and networked during the two days of the event. In his welcome address, Prof. Rosenthal emphasized once again the importance of international cooperation in solving major scientific and social issues. In Prof. Tünnermann's keynote speech on the relevance of this discipline in the modern world, it became clear how much the research field "Photonics" can contribute to these solutions. Special attention was paid to quantum photonics and its influence in the coming years.

Afterwards, the participants started motivated into the makeathon of the Lichtwerkstatt Jena, where they developed and implemented creative solutions for photonic problems. The results of the two teams exceeded the expectations of the audience and the jury by far and proved that effective collaboration on real problems is also possible in virtual space. The team “Game Jam” won by a narrow margin with the original idea of making optical signal transmission tangible through a video game.

Impetus for research and active networking at the "Hot-Stuff-Award" and the career fair

The second day also provided a stage for young photonics talents to demonstrate their skills and enthusiasm for science and innovation. During the elevator pitches for the "Hot Stuff Award" of the High-Performance Center Photonics, young scientists presented their project ideas to a virtual audience in five minutes in short videos. Johannes Kretzschmar from the Makerspace of Lichtwerkstatt Jena won this scientific competition. In his project he wants to build a knowledge base for the automation and remote control of laboratory work. This includes the mapping of experiments on digital twins, the control via IoT infrastructure and the visualization by means of technologies for computer-aided augmented or virtual reality perception (AR and VR technologies). We are eager to see how the winning team will use the 15,000 € prize money to further develop their interesting idea. At the career fair that followed, students and guests had the opportunity to talk to representatives of twelve companies and research institutions and received valuable career tips.

Presentation of the Applied Photonics Award

The Applied Photonics Award, a prize offered by Fraunhofer IOF, also focused on young scientists. The award honors innovative theses that are particularly relevant to applied photonics. During the event, the award-winning researchers explained their fields of research in keynote speeches and once again made it clear what diverse and exciting developments in the field of photonics can still be expected in the coming years.

The Applied Photonics Award was presented with the kind support of the Association of German Engineers (VDI) and the companies Trumpf, Jenoptik and Active Fiber Systems.

The winners of the Applied Photonics Award 2020 and Andreas Tünnermann in front of the institute building of Fraunhofer IOF
© Fraunhofer IOF
The winners of the Applied Photonics Award 2020 together with Prof. Andreas Tünnermann in front of the Fraunhofer Institute in Jena (from the left: Carlos Abad Andrade, Christian Gaida, Ben Sicks, Simon Schmid, Nadja Felde, Andreas Tünnermann)

This year's winners of the Applied Photonics Awards 2020 were:

Best bachelor thesis: Ben Sicks (Ulm University of Applied Sciences), "Entwicklung eines LED-basierten Systems zur homogenen Bestrahlung von Endotrachealtuben mit sichtbarem Licht zur Vermeidung von beatmungsassoziierten Pneumonien" (Development of an LED-based system for homogeneous irradiation of endotracheal tubes with visible light to prevent ventilator-associated pneumonia)

Best master thesis: Simon Schmid (Technical University of Munich), "Development of a New Approach of Evaluating Process Stability of the Laser-Powder Bed Fusion Process with Deep Learning"

Best dissertation: Nadja Felde (Friedrich Schiller University Jena), "Design, manufacturing, and characterization of robust multifunctional surfaces"


In addition, further jury prizes were awarded.

Jury award for outstanding scientific work: Christian Gaida (Friedrich Schiller University Jena), "Powerscaling of ultrafast thulium-doped fiber laser systems"

Jury award for high potential for utilization and application: Carlos Abad Andrade (Humboldt University of Berlin), "Advances and Applications of Molecular Absorption Spectrometry: from Non-Metals to Isotope Analysis"

Inspiring Keynotes

The Photonics Days 2020 were rounded off by two inspiring keynotes. Prof. Ursula Keller, head of research at ETH Zurich and a proven expert in the field of ultrafast laser physics, gave exciting insights into the principle and application of an optical frequency comb. In his presentation, Dr. Stefan Traeger, CEO of JENOPTIK AG, reflected on the challenges and opportunities that the corona pandemic poses for the photonics industry and emphasized once again in this context the relevance of promoting and networking with junior researchers.