PRESS RELEASE / ANNOUNCEMENTS Monday, November 28, 2016

Photonics Society at UCSB Encourages Women to Study the Science of Light

Jell-O, water tanks, and laser beams: using these tools, a group of 9-12 year old girls at Girls Inc. Goleta learned all about light technologies at the kickoff event for Women in Photonics and Manufacturing Week, an event organized by the Photonics Society at UCSB aimed at introducing girls of all ages to the field of photonics, the science of light. The activity was led by a group of four female scientists who guided 28 students through interactive lessons on the role of photonics technologies in their lives, hoping to inspire them to pursue a career in the field of photonics.

Participants were very excited by the lessons. The girls’ eyes lit up when volunteers explained that scientists use light to transfer data across the world. “I loved seeing how the students would react when I described basic photonics concepts, like how fast it takes light to travel across the country and back compared to how fast they can travel in the same amount of time,” said Takako Hirokawa, a graduate student at UCSB and one of the volunteers for the event. “It was great to see how engaged participants were, because this is genuinely super cool stuff!”

Held in partnership with the American Institute for Manufacturing Integrated Photonics (AIM Photonics) and the Center for Science and Engineering Partnerships (CSEP) at UCSB, Women in Photonics and Manufacturing Week included tours of local Santa Barbara photonics companies, career talks from women working in the field of photonics, and photonics outreach activities. The event brought together 11 female scientists in the field of photonics, ranging from graduate students at UCSB to research scientists in the field, who traveled all around Santa Barbara and Goleta to introduce girls to photonics and inspire them to pursue a career in a science-related field.

The event was held to celebrate the IEEE Photonics Society’s Introduce a Girl to Photonics Week, IEEE Day, and Manufacturing Day. “We have a thriving photonics community here in Santa Barbara, and we wanted a way to leverage that to help get girls excited about pursuing careers in this field,” said Demis John, Industry Liaison for the Photonics Society at UCSB. In total, over 100 students and their parents in the local Santa Barbara community participated in the week’s events.

Victoria Rosborough, a graduate student at UCSB, was one of several female scientists who spoke to students about her career path in photonics at La Colina Junior High School. Seeing women speak about their scientific careers gave girls in the audience a role model for encouraging them to pursue their own interests in photonics, and science in general. “It’s important for students of every gender to see women represented in traditionally male fields. I hope the participants took away an impression that science and technology are exciting and relevant to their everyday lives,” said Victoria.

“Because there are not many women in engineering, I think women need encouragement to be involved in engineering as equally as men,” said Biljana Stamenic, Senior Development Engineer at the UCSB Nanofabrication Facility. Takako reiterated Biljana’s sentiments, saying that she is committed to volunteering for science outreach activities because she wants “to be a concrete example of a real scientist for the young girls. There’s still this image in the media that scientists and engineers are socially awkward guys with glasses in a lab coat, and I hope to combat that in a small way every time I show up to a classroom to speak to them.”

This event marks just one of many events that the Photonics Society at UCSB hopes to put on to strengthen the relationship between photonics researchers and the local Santa Barbara community. “We will continue to offer programming to spread awareness and excitement for this important field and the technologies it enables,” said Eric Stanton, President of the Photonics Society at UCSB. “Events like these are a great way for UCSB graduate students and photonics researchers to share their enthusiasm for their work with the local community, raising awareness and exposing budding scientists to the exciting possibilities of photonics technologies.”

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