Angela Dudley - 2018 SPIE Women in Optics Planner
Council for Scientific & Industrial Research, National Laser Centre (CSIR-NLC), South Africa
Country of Birth: South Africa
Apart from enjoying and having an aptitude for math and science at school, I decided to pursue a career in physics because there are very few female scientists in South Africa. Having a degree in physics opens the door to a variety of careers across a variety of sectors. And since only a few women pursue these careers it means more opportunities for those who do.
My responsibilities involve implementing structured light to increase the bandwidth of optical communications systems. I design and construct optical experiments as well as develop code to automate measurement processes and analyze data. I also assist on the business process and program development of our prototyping facility which develops photonics prototypes well-aligned to market needs.
At the start of my career I thought scientists were introverts who lived in their labs doing complex calculations and experiments. But I have learned that there are other important elements to a great scientist: effectively communicating your research to a variety of audiences, and mentoring and supervising students. If you feel you lack these traits, take some courses to develop these skills. Surround yourself with people who complement your skill set.
If you decide to follow a career in academics, choose an ambitious mentor. He/ she will challenge you to push your bounds, plus show you the other aspects of science that you might not be so familiar with like proposal writing, popularizing your research, and building and mentoring your own research team. Always capitalize on opportunities as you don’t know where it may lead or what doors it may open.
And remember, as a scientist our work often tends to consume us and involves a lot of time spent away from home traveling. Over the years, I've tried to get better at 'shutting-off' from work when I'm at home spending time with my family. Having an understanding partner who shares similar interests and beliefs definitely helps.