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SPIE and The University of Manchester announce $1-million endowment for postgraduate scholarships

SPIE, the international society for optics and photonics, and The University of Manchester announced the establishment of the SPIE-Manchester Postgraduate Scholarship in Photonics, today during SPIE Photonics West in San Francisco. The $500,000 gift from SPIE will be matched 100% by the University. Part of the SPIE Endowment Matching Program, this new endowment will support both early-career researchers and returning researchers at the University’s Photon Science Institute in partnership with the Royce Institute, the UK’s national institute for advanced materials research and innovation. This is the 11th major SPIE gift to universities and institutes as part of the Society's ongoing program to support the expansion of optical engineering teaching and research.

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Doctoral students at work in the Photon Science Institute lab. (Photo: Business Wire)

With a goal of increasing diversity in optics and photonics, the SPIE-Manchester Postgraduate Scholarship will have a particular focus on funding individuals returning to research following a career break or time in industry, and those pursuing unconventional career pathways or part-time study (situations often necessitated by caring responsibilities, for example). Aligning current research and industrial needs for a robust training pipeline, an additional unique feature of the scholarship is an optional final-year placement of up to 12 months, during which students can develop industry-relevant skills in collaboration with local optics and photonics companies.

“Today marks just the beginning of the partnership between The University of Manchester and SPIE,” noted Department Head of Research for Physics and Astronomy at The University of Manchester Dr. Patrick Parkinson. “The establishment of the SPIE-Manchester Postgraduate Scholarship in Photonics is a testament to our shared values within skills training, fostering diversity in education and the vital role of photonics. This announcement holds special significance as it coincides with the University’s bicentenary year. We take great pride in using this generous donation to not only advance research and education, but also to solidify our existing partnerships and forge new industrial collaborations to deliver a doctoral training program that will ensure a sustainable workforce for the North West of England.”

“Our expanding field needs researchers and engineers, though for some who might be interested in a photonics career, traditional educational paths are barriers to their success,” said SPIE CEO Kent Rochford. “The SPIE-Manchester Postgraduate Scholarship in Photonics aims to remove those barriers and provide exciting opportunities for early-career researchers and those who may be pursuing unconventional career paths. Working internally at the university’s Photon Science Institute with the option of an industry-focused placement, promises to benefit young researchers, as well as our future diverse workforce. I very much look forward to meeting the leaders in optics and photonics technologies who will emerge from this dynamic partnership between SPIE and The University of Manchester.”

The SPIE Endowment Matching Program was established in 2019 to increase international capacity in the teaching and research of optics and photonics. With this latest gift, SPIE has provided over $4 million in matching gifts, resulting in more than $11 million in dedicated funds. The SPIE Endowment Matching Program supports optics and photonics education and the future of the industry by contributing a match of up to $500,000 per award to college, institute, and university programs with optics and photonics degrees, or with other disciplines allied to the SPIE mission.

About the University of Manchester

The University of Manchester is a member of the prestigious Russell Group and one of the UK’s largest single-site universities. We have over 40,000 students, 12,000 staff and, with 500,000 former students from more than 190 countries, are home to the largest alumni community of any campus-based university in the UK. We are ranked in the top ten of the Times Higher Education (THE) Impact Rankings globally; are the top UK University for graduate employability according to The Graduate Market in 2022 and no fewer than 25 Nobel laureates have either worked or studied here. Manchester was also named 5th place for research power — the quality and scale of research and impact — in the UK government’s (REF) 2021. Visit for further information or for our latest strategic vision.

About SPIE

SPIE, the international society for optics and photonics, brings engineers, scientists, students, and business professionals together to advance light-based science and technology. The Society, founded in 1955, connects and engages with our global constituency through industry-leading conferences and exhibitions; publications of conference proceedings, books, and journals in the SPIE Digital Library; and career-building opportunities. Over the past five years, SPIE has contributed more than $24 million to the international optics community through our advocacy and support, including scholarships, educational resources, travel grants, endowed gifts, and public-policy development.

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