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SPIE PHOTONICS WEST REVIEW


Trump travel ban disrupts Photonics West conference O


n 31 January, leaders of SPIE wrote a letter to United States President


Donald Trump addressing the executive order issued at the end of January banning entry to visa holders whose country of origin is Syria, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, or Yemen. Although currently suspended, the ban resulted in several scientists – including conference speakers – not being able to attend Photonics West. Those banned included photoacoustic imaging researcher Parsin Hajireza from the University of Alberta in Canada, and PhD student Sahar Mirzaei from the University of Southampton in the UK. Both were due to speak at the event. ‘We were surprised and disappointed to hear that speakers and attendees for this conference were denied entry into the United States,’ said SPIE CEO Eugene Arthurs. ‘These scientists had spent considerable time and money preparing to come and contribute to the scientific programme, where they have always been welcome. They had no reason to think this was not the case yet again this year.’ Hajireza was to give a talk on photoacoustic remote sensing microscopy in the Bios session, while Mirzaei had been due to present on ways to detect and identify DNA as part of the Opto conference. Mirzaei, originally from Iran,


moved to the UK to study for a master’s degree in 2011, and is now in the final year of her PhD studying metamaterials at the University of Southampton. She told Show Daily, Photonics West’s magazine, that she was due to fly from London Heathrow airport on 28 January with British Airways. She was travelling on a business visa, but was stopped from boarding the plane after handing over her Iranian passport. She did not receive a refund from British Airways and also lost money on


www.electrooptics.com | @electrooptics


her hotel. ‘That’s a shame, as I was preparing for months for the conference and visa,’ she said.


Scientific collaboration


is core to technological advancements that enhance


lives around the world in many ways, and the brilliant minds behind these advancements know no border or country of origin, the letter to President Trump said. SPIE government affairs director, Jennifer Douris,


said: ‘SPIE is concerned that the executive order as currently written will discourage the broader scientific community from travel to the United States.’ In its letter, SPIE offered to work with the administration.


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