Polina Anikeeva

Polina Anikeeva - 2017 SPIE Women in Optics Planner

Associate Professor
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA

Polina Anikeeva

Country of Birth: Russia
Country of Residence: USA
Educational Background: BS in Physics, St. Petersburg State Polytechnic University; PhD in Materials Science, MIT


Since I was a teenager, my mentors have inspired me to be a scientist: My physics teacher in high school, Dr. Mikhail Georgievich Ivanov; my first undergraduate research adviser, Prof. Tatiana Birshtein; my thesis committee mentor, Prof. Millie Dresselhaus; my thesis adviser, Prof. Vladimir Bulović; and my postdoc adviser, Prof. Karl Deisseroth. I was also inspired by SciFi novels that always had one woman on the spaceship — usually a physicist —I wanted to be that woman.

I am a professor in the Materials Science and Engineering Department at MIT and a principal investigator of the Bioelectronics group. My team works at the interface between optoelectronics, magnetism and neurobiology. We develop devices that record and stimulate neural activity. My daily duties include teaching classes, mentoring students, coming up with research ideas, writing papers and grant proposals to support our research, and being a manager of our group.

The biggest challenge of my career was starting my own research lab. Because our work is interdisciplinary, my team and I perform a wide range of experiments from nanomaterials synthesis to neurosurgery to convince the community of engineers and biologists that our approach to understanding and treating brain and nerve disorders has merit.

My advice to girls in STEM is remember that STEM is the ultimate playground. Leave fear at home and do exactly what you’re passionate about. Take as many math classes as possible - it makes everything else easier. Finally, to become a real scientist or an engineer, take something apart like a bicycle or a computer, and put it back together.

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