A brief history of KOALA…

KOALA (Konference on Optics, Atoms and Laser Applications) was founded in 2008 by PhD students at the University of Queensland, Brisbane. They were inspired by the success of the Young Atom Opticians (YAO) meetings in Europe and thought it would be great to start a similar student-run meeting in Australasia (they were right!). The first ever conference was a great success, with 40 students across 7 institutions attending and presenting a wide range of exciting research. This also triggered the formation of the University of Queensland OSA Student Chapter, and subsequently several other OSA and SPIE student chapters in Australia and New Zealand. Click here to view the official report on the first KOALA, 2008.

KOALA 2008, Brisbane

The conference has been held annually in November ever since, and quickly grew in size and reputation, with in excess of 100 delegates from institutions across 10 different countries attending in 2015! In 2009 KOALA partnered up with the IONS (International OSA Network of Students) project to become an IONS conference, and since 2013 we have also been working closely with SPIE, who offer support via their FOCUS (Federation of Optics College and University Students) grant program. We also have a large network of other loyal sponsors, without whom IONS KOALA would not be possible.

The 2009 IONS KOALA was held in Sydney and was organised by the OSA student chapters at Sydney and Macquarie universities. KOALA 2009 Report.

KOALA 2009, Sydney

In 2010 IONS KOALA moved across the ditch and was hosted by the University of Otago OSA student chapter. KOALA 2010 Report.

KOALA 2010, Dunedin

The 2011 meeting was hosted jointly by the University of Melbourne, RMIT and Swinburne and was held at Trinity College at the University of Melbourne. KOALA 2011 Conference Report.

KOALA 2011, Melbourne

In 2012, IONS KOALA was hosted in Brisbane by the Griffith University OSA student chapter. KOALA 2012 Conference Report.

IONS KOALA 2012, Griffith

2013 saw the conference move to Sydney, and was hosted by the University of Sydney OSA/SPIE student chapter. KOALA 2013 report.

KOALA 2013, Sydney

IONS KOALA 2014 was held in Adelaide, hosted by the University of Adelaide OSA Student Chapter. IONS KOALA 2014 report.

IONS KOALA 2014, Adelaide

In 2015, KOALA crossed the ditch for a second time, with IONS KOALA 2015 held at the University of Auckland, co-hosted by the University of Auckland OSA student chapter and the University of Otago joint OSA and SPIE student chapter. IONS KOALA 2015 report.

IONS KOALA 2015, Auckland

IONS KOALA 2016 was held in Melbourne, co-hosted by the Monash University OSA Student Chapter and the Swinburne University of Technology joint OSA/SPIE Student Chapter. IONS KOALA 2016 report.

In 2017 IONS KOALA will return to Brisbane! Based at the University of Queensland (UQ) with a joint organising committee of students from both UQ and Griffith University, we promise to make KOALA as productive, educational and awesome as ever!


The KOALA koala has been proudly representing the conference since 2008, with the addition of his cuddly kiwi friend in 2010, when IONS KOALA crossed the ditch to New Zealand for the first time and was held at the University of Otago. Below they are being handed over to the new management at last year’s conference in Melbourne.

(Photo credit to the hosting student chapters of each conference.)