Khoshakhlagh, Arezou - 2015 SPIE Women in Optics Planner
Microelectronics Engineer, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, CalTech, USA
Country of Birth: Iran
Educational Background: Electrical Engineering
My father had a great impact on my adventure towards Engineering; he is an Economics professor and he always taught me different methods of problem-solving, especially in mathematics and science. This influenced my interest to implement them both theoretically and experimentally and those skills helped me excel in math and science courses, which ultimately made me choose engineering as a major.
I lead the material engineering, growth, and characterization for III-V infrared detectors at the Jet Propulsion Laboratories; an infrared sensor is an electronic device that detects infrared radiation in order to sense the temperature of its surroundings. All objects emit some form of thermal radiation, usually in the infrared spectrum; this radiation is invisible to our eyes, but can be detected by an infrared sensor that accepts and interprets the signal. Infrared detectors have wide variety of applications in space, medical, environmental, and defense technologies; one of the applications in space is to map the sky in infrared which gives information about the star formation as well as information about the asteroids. In medical applications they are used for cancer cell detection since cancer cells have higher temperatures as compared to healthy cells. At JPL, we build novel detectors based on engineered synthetic stacks of semiconductor materials that improves the performance of these infrared sensors.
Women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields are still a minority. Some of the causes for this are stereotypes, workplace bias, and self-assessment; however, there are many ways to keep up the motivation and be successful. One of the most important factors is selfconfidence, and remembering that you were accepted to your position because of qualifications and accomplishments that belong to you. In order to improve your qualifications and provide better opportunities for your future, get involved with research projects, summer internships, and look for strong mentors who have travelled similar paths to what you are trying to follow, and hear their guidance and advice.