Alejandra Valencia - 2015 SPIE Women in Optics Planner
Assistant Professor, Universidad de los Andes Bogotá, Colombia
Country of Birth: Colombia
Educational Background: BS Physics; MS, PhD Applied Physics
My primary responsibility in my current job is to lead a research group in experimental quantum optics at the university and to help developing a scientific culture in this field in Colombia. Quantum optics mainly studies the behavior of photons, particles of light, and the practical applications that can be developed by using them. My working day is centered on teaching, research and divulgation activities. On an everyday basis, I interact with other scientists, and both undergraduate and graduate students to guide them in their first approximation to life as a researcher. We are constantly working in the laboratory where we count photons and discuss new ideas and experimental results.
When I was starting out, it would have been very valuable having someone talk about the importance of finding equilibrium between personal and professional life. Working in science is much more than a nine-to-five job. Once you are involved in your research you are really into it. It is a topic that is always present in your mind and does not respect schedule or weekends. That is why it is very important to have discipline and be aware of the necessity of equilibrium in your life.
Do not feel intimidated for entering in a male-dominated field. Year by year, women are opening their own spaces and there is no need to renounce anything to grow professionally in a STEM field. If you are really passionate about your job, you already have a big percentage of what is needed to succeed. The other components are dedication and constancy.