Mercedeh Khajavikhan - 2017 SPIE Women in Optics Planner
CREOL the College of Optics & Photonics, University of Central Florida, USA
Country of Birth: Iran
Since I was young, I wanted to pursue a career in science. Science is a way to understand the world on a deeper level. I am inspired by Einstein because of his simple and elegant explanation of very sophisticated concepts and because of the role he played in the physics community. As an experimentalist, I am inspired by Michelson for his rigor and persistence.
My primary responsibilities are to advance the frontiers of science. I do this as a professor and with a team conducting research in the field of optics and photonics. I lead the group, supervise the progress of the team members, disseminate the knowledge through publications and conference presentations, and find financial means to carry out the work.
A critical part of research is finding a problem to solve. The biggest obstacle for me has been identifying a good problem. I learned to read more and talk more with other people to see where I can make contributions.
I wish someone had told me that all that math was really worth learning. Good math skills are crucial to come up with new big ideas and to express them in the proper format. It’s also important to read the history of physics. You see how and where ideas are generated.
A career in STEM is fun, full of adventures, and quite rewarding. It is challenging, and may cause you to question yourself. It requires years of study and training. My advice to young girls is to not be afraid of learning, get involved in things that you do not know (yet), and volunteer for interesting projects, even if you do not understand them (just yet). Forget the phrase “I do not know how to do it” and more frequently use “yes, I think I can do it.”