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Optics Prize Spotlights Hands-on Education

ICTP in winning collaboration to improve optics education in developing world

26/11/2010 - Trieste

Active Learning in Optics and Photonics (ALOP), an education programme that provides hands-on training in optics and photonics for teachers in the developing world, has won the 2011 SPIE Educator Award. SPIE is the international society for optics and photonics.

Under the auspices of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the ALOP team, which includes ICTP scientist Joseph Niemela, has literally brought light to more than 400 physics teachers from 45 countries through hands-on optics and photonics workshops, inspiring a new generation of scientists in those nations.

The workshops train high-school and introductory-level university physics teachers in developing countries through active-learning workshops utilizing simple, locally available materials.

Afterward, participants are encouraged to organize workshops to train more teachers in their regions, as well as to teach the optics and photonics lessons in their classrooms.

The ALOP team has presented 13 workshops since the program's launch in 2003 with support from ICTP, SPIE, UNESCO, and other organizations.

The team is comprised of volunteers from around the world. Those being recognized with the SPIE Educator Award are:

  • Minella Alarcon, UNESCO, France
  • Zohra Ben-Lakhdar, University El Manaur, Tunisia
  • Ivan Culaba, Ateneo de Manila University, Philippines
  • Vasudevan Lakshminarayanan, University of Waterloo, Canada
  • Joel Maquiling, Ateneo de Manila University, Philippines
  • Alex Mazzolini, Swinburne University of Technology, Australia
  • Joseph Niemela, ICTP
  • David Sokoloff, University of Oregon, USA.

The SPIE Educator Award is given annually in recognition of outstanding contributions to optics education by SPIE instructors or educators in optics and photonics, and includes a $2,000 honorarium. For more information on this year's recipients and past winners, see