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Amanda Meier

Principal Optical Engineer
Spectra-Physics Lasers
MKS Instruments, Inc., USA

Amanda Meier

Country of Birth: USA
Country of Residence: USA
Educational Background: PhD in Applied Physics, Colorado School of Mines

 

I followed a friend to college not knowing what I wanted to study myself. I was accepted to a leadership program there but still chose to take calculus and physics courses since I liked the subjects in high school. I had a physics professor recognize my skill and invite me to do undergraduate research with him, which opened my eyes to experimental physics (and all the cool equipment I could learn to use)! Transferring to an engineering college to be surrounded by others who shared a passion for STEM was the best thing I could do for my career.

I work in research and development of industrial laser technologies. I spend most of my time in a laboratory developing laser systems on an optical table using a variety of optical components and test equipment. I also spend time using a variety of software to analyze data and model laser processes to discern what to test and investigate further in the laboratory. I collaborate and develop new products with colleagues so some of my time is spent writing about and presenting my experiments and results in a variety of meetings and seminars.

Last year I found out I needed to have knee surgery. Since starting laboratory work, I have spent most of my time doing experiments. With less physical capability post-surgery, it has been an adjustment to recognize where I can contribute while not feeling like the best version of myself and to ask for help. Yet this temporary disability has made me consider that there is more in a career than job tasks and planned paths can always change. I’m excited to include other aspects important to me in my career such as increased collaboration and getting involved in outside organizations with outreach opportunities.

I wish someone would have told me how common imposter syndrome is in STEM. A career in STEM will be hard, with very few examples of women to follow. It is okay to always be learning and be a work-in-progress. Just because you may approach something differently doesn’t mean you are wrong and someone else is right, different points of view are extremely important to solving complicated problems and yours is just as valuable as everyone else’s. Try not to compare yourself to others.

My advice for those considering a career in STEM is to find a group that you can study or work well with, it makes getting through the hard problem sets and exams or tight deadlines much more manageable. Work hard and don’t forget to find time for fun as well. Find other women to discuss not just the technical aspects of your job or coursework, but other challenges you are facing because they most likely have encountered similar challenges.

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