Lessons learned by women in photonics

The European Optical Society launched the EOS Early Career Women in Photonics Award in 2015 to recognise young female scientists that have made outstanding contributions to photonics. We look at past winners to discover their success and motivation

in 2019, the Adolph Lomb Medal and the Rising Researcher Award (SPIE), the EU-40 Materials Prize (E-MRS) along with Fellow of the Max Planck School Matter to Life and the Nano Letters Young Investigator Lectureship Award; in 2018 and 2019 she also received the Highly Cited Researcher by the Web of Science; and, in 2020, was nominated as Max Planck Fellow and OSA fellow.

Laura Na Liu (2015 joint winner)

Professor Laura Na Liu received her PhD in Physics at University of Stuttgart. She then worked as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of California, Berkeley and then as a Texas Instruments visiting professor at Rice University. Prior to this, she was a professor at the

Kirchhoff Institute for Physics at University of Heidelberg in 2015, after working as an independent group leader at the Max- Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems. In 2020, she joined University of Stuttgart and became the Director of the Physics Institute. Liu’s research sits at the interface

between nanophotonics, biology and chemistry. Her group focuses on developing sophisticated and smart optical nanosystems for answering structural biology questions, as well as catalytic chemistry questions in local environments. Liu has received several awards: in 2014,

the Heinz Maier-Leibnitz Award from the German Research Foundation and an ERC starting grant from the European Research Council; the IUPAP Young Scientist Prize in Optics from the International Commission for Optics in 2016; in 2018, the Rudolf- Kaiser Prize and the Kavli Foundation Early Career Award in Materials Science;

24 Electro Optics June 2021

Nathalie Vermeulen (2015 joint winner)

Dr Nathalie Vermeulen is a tenure track professor at the Faculty of Engineering of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB). She was born in Duffel, Belgium in 1981, and

Liu encourages anyone who would like to

pursue a career in photonics to familiarise themselves with some classical literature on the topic, to name a few; Plasmonics: Fundamentals and Applications by Stefan Maier and Principles of Nano-optics by Lukas Novotny. In Liu’s experience, women are unfortunately underestimated at times. Her advice for other women in the field is: ‘At first be sure what you want to do in your life; once the decision is made, be very focused and make your signature contributions to the field.’

obtained her MSc degree in Electrotechnical Engineering in Photonics in 2004 and PhD degree in Engineering in 2008, both from VUB. Vermeulen then continued her research

in the Brussels Photonics (B-Phot) research group with an FWO PostDoc research grant. In 2013, after obtaining a Starting Grant from the European Research Council (ERC), she became professor at B-Phot teaching laser physics. Her area of specialisation is nonlinear- optical light generation and lasers. During her PhD she investigated both Raman laser sources and mid-infrared solid-state lasers. Her current research activities are focused on graphene-based nonlinear optics and integrated diamond photonics.

“At first be sure what you want to do in your life. Once the decision is made, be very focused and make your signature contributions to the field”

Vermeulen’s awards include: the

Spectra-Physics Research Excellence Award in 2007; the European Photonics21 Innovation Award in 2010 and the VUB Ignace Vanderschueren prize in 2014. She was awarded an ERC Starting Grant for her project Nexcentric in 2013, and she co- ordinated a European Future and Emerging Technologies (FET) project called Graphenics between 2013 and 2017. ‘There is an artistic touch to light.

Anything visual is connected to light, and light thus is essential in all visual art forms, like painting, sculpting, filmmaking, and so on,’ Vermeulen said. Her advice to other women is: ‘Take advantage of the chances given to you. Work hard, be brave. Don’t be afraid of the competition and never give up.’

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