Special Event Recap: Women-in-Electronics & Photonics Symposium at CSW2021
Compound Semiconductor Week 2021 (CSW2021) was held digitally this year (https://csw2021.se) within the joint venue for the 47th International Symposium on Compound Semiconductors (ISCS) and the 32nd International Conference on Indium Phosphide and Related Materials (IPRM). More than 300 participants presented their research and innovations in more than 30 sessions and workshops, sharing their latest findings on the wide range of compound semiconductor technology frontiers covered in the event.
Qin Wang from the Research Institutes of Sweden (RISE) and Royal Institute of Technology (KTH) with her team in the IEEE Photonics Sweden Chapter organized a Women-in-Electronics/Photonics Symposium as part of CSW2021. The organizers were honored to have Ayodeji Coker, Science Director from the USA Office of Naval Research Global, as the chair of this symposium.
The program included two sessions organized to feature prominent women researchers and leaders in the field. The first session featured welcome messages by Charlotte Karlsson, Vice President of RISE, and Deepa Venkitesh, Indian Institute of Technology Madras, followed by technical talks. Andrews Nirmala Grace, from the Centre for Nanotechnology Research of Vellore Institute of Technology, India led a presentation on “Vanadium nitride nanostructures as efficient Pt-free counter electrodes for dye sensitized solar cells”, Linda Höglund, of IRnova AB, “T2SL and QWIP infrared detectors for gas sensing applications”, and Irina Bouianova, Linkoping University in Sweden, “III-V nanowires from highly-mismatched alloys”.
The second session featured additional notable women, such as: Linda Mondin, of the European Space Agency (ESA), on “Laser Interferometer Space antenna”, Qin Wang, from RISE/KTH, on “GaN based HEMTs for power and RF applications”; Ani Khachatrian, from USA Naval Research Lab (NRL), on “Single event effects in wide bandgap semiconductors”; Shouleh Nikzad, from the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), on “Nanoscale engineered silicon imagers reaching theoretical limit performance and their application in space exploration and synergistic fields”.
The invited scientists presented their latest results of their cutting-edge research covering a wide range of topics in photonics and electronics, spanning from basic science on quantum structures to industrial IR sensing and space/military applications. They all have made valuable contributions to their R&D fields and serve as role models to inspire young professionals and Ph.D. students to embrace future technology leaps.
One of the invited speakers, IEEE Fellow, Shouleh Nikzad from NASA, was specifically selected by the IEEE Women in Engineering as a Pioneer Electrical Engineer and role model in 2021. She is known internationally for her contributions to ultraviolet, optical, and near-infrared technologies, particularly detectors. She has had a significant scientific impact on UV astrophysics and planetary science, and her achievements in high-performance detectors have enabled UV astrophysics in CubeSat platforms. Her talk in CSW2021 was very inspiring, leading the audience from semiconductor devices/systems to fascinating space applications. She has been also invited to give talks at RISE and KTH during the CSW2021 period through the IEEE Photonics Distinguished Lecturer program. Her lectures were highly anticipated by the organizers as they were planned to reach in-person younger professionals, especially female young students in STEM fields. Unfortunately, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the planned IEEE Distinguished Lectures couldn’t be held on-site at the Swedish institutions as scheduled.
Ursula Keller from ETH Zurich (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich) was one of CSW2021 keynote speakers. Her work has had a significant impact in the area of semiconductor disk lasers, and she is also the first elected president and co-founder of the ETH Women Professors Forum (WPF). Regarding gender equality, Prof. Keller has stated: ‘‘When men and women pursue their careers, this means that both can live out their individual dreams. Both can demonstrate their abilities to the fullest and receive recognition for it. This brings joy! In addition, a double income gives a family more security, particularly in times of hardship.’’ More on her talk insights, can be found here: https://eth-wpf.ch
Hannah Joyce, from the Department of Engineering, Cambridge University, won The Young Scientist Award announced during the CSW2021 award ceremony. She was recognized for making significant contributions towards the “engineering of III-V nanowire-based optoelectronic devices and terahertz spectroscopy of compound semiconductor nanomaterials”. (https://bit.ly/3cbCSKy).
Joyce shared her experience with Wang on how to promote a good balance between a scientific career and personal life among young scientists and researchers. Although she acknowledged that balancing family life and work is a real challenge, she also recognized that it is a rewarding experience to find an equilibrium in both aspects. Joyce remarked that it is important that everyone (managers, mentors, supervisors, postdocs, and students) recognize how hard finding balance can be and to try to be understanding of their colleagues. She mentioned her experiences on gender related factors, stating that women tend to be in the minority in STEM disciplines, which in some ways can be good because people are more likely to remember them and notice their research.
Nonetheless, Joyce said that there are still unconscious biases against women. Wang appreciated the honest advice targeted towards young professionals, particularly her thoughts on the importance of career development as much as research and accepting constructive criticism. She emphasized that feedback can be viewed as a gift that allows us to improve professionally and mentioned that she learned this much too late in her research career that she wished she had learned earlier.
Special acknowledgements go to: Sebastian Lourdudoss, Mattias Hammar and Anders Hallén from the CSW2021 organizing committee; Arne Alping and Christofer Silfvenius from IEEE Photonics Sweden Chapter and IEEE Sweden Section. The organizers are grateful for their efforts and support to ensure the success of the Women-in-Electronics & Photonics symposium at CSW2021. Such support helps the initiative lead a brighter future and open needed inclusion discussion.