Jess Wade - 2018 SPIE Women in Optics Planner
Imperial College London, UK
Country of Birth: UK
My mother and my school teachers inspired my work in science. My mum is an academic doctor, writing papers, books and touring the world. Both my physics and chemistry teachers had PhDs, they had experience of the scientific world and they were so supportive, I felt like I could do anything.
Now, I do research at the Centre for Plastic Electronics at Imperial College London, we print ultrathin layers (tens of nanometers thick) onto plastic to make flexible electronic devices. Our organic solar cells can be printed onto huge sheets, which can be rolled out across deserts in the developing world. I am currently working on circularly polarized light emitting diodes; where the shapes of the organic molecules determine the polarization of the emitted light.
I find transitions difficult: from being the biggest fish at school to the smallest plankton at university and from 'mastering' my Masters to being an amateur at the beginning of my PhD. I have always surrounded myself with supportive friends and I have never been embarrassed to ask for help. My best advisor taught me everything I knew during my PhD, mentored me, and still helps me every day.
In science, you're never on your own. Ignore the thoughts inside your head and people outside it who tell you that science is not for you. Science, like all jobs, is about people. Be kind to everyone you meet. Whether it is getting in to a university or joining a new research group, it pays to have friends.
I wish people had told me that nobody in the world is an expert in everything, and approach science slowly whilst you learn. I wish someone had taught me about work/life balance and that it is okay to fail. In life and with experiments, things can go wrong, but as long as you're happy and healthy, you will develop as a person. I wish someone had told me that doing a PhD is one of the biggest privileges in the world, that I shouldn’t waste time moaning about how 'hard' life is, just enjoy!