Kristen Maitland - 2014 SPIE Women in Optics Planner
Assistant Professor, Texas A&M University, USA
Country of Birth: USA
Educational Background: PhD Biomedical Engineering, University of Texas at Austin, USA; MS, BS Electrical Engineering, California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, USA
In high school, I visited the San Francisco Exploratorium and was fascinated with all the creative science exhibits. A new erector set roller coaster was being set up, but the cars kept falling off the track. I jumped right in and helped the employee troubleshoot and fix the track; he asked me if I was an engineering student. Although I loved math and science and was considering studying engineering, this brief interaction validated my interest and encouraged my pursuits.
I found it challenging to balance my career responsibilities with my home responsibilities. We were in a financial position where it was worthwhile for us to "outsource" a good portion of our home responsibilities, including housecleaning, yard care, even cooking at one point. As you move on in your career and find the demands on your time increasing, determine what chores you want to do and what chores you don't want to do and can afford to have someone else do for you.
Early on, I realized that you don't have to fit into the shoebox of what someone else views as "successful". It is more important to establish what you value and what your priorities are, and work to achieve a career, family, and lifestyle that are in line with your definition of "success".
Choose your own path, proceed confidently on that path, and be ready for detours at a moment's notice. You may feel like you don't have all the answers, but you will generate as many new questions as answers, and you will learn that the journey is more important than the destination.