Amrita Sahu - 2019 SPIE Women in Optics Planner
Country of Birth: India
As a child, I always liked solving riddles. To me, mathematics and physics are more like fun than work. My parents were my strongest influence. As a teenager, I remember visiting my mother at her university and my father at his clinic and was amazed to see how they contributed to society using their expertise. They saw my passion for science and technology and supported my choice to pursue a career in imaging science.
I lead optical imaging research at Altria with a focus on quality control, new product development, and discovering agronomic traits. Some of the applications my team has worked on are using hyperspectral imaging for grading agricultural products, on-line detection of contaminants, phenotyping, etc. What I like most about my job is that we get an opportunity to build a system using state of the art equipment and then come up with algorithms and image processing techniques to develop the system. Most of our work is geared for implementation in the factories! And that gives me immense satisfaction.
Moving far away from my country and family to pursue my passion has been my biggest challenge. My family back in India are very supportive as is my husband. I value the encouragement and respect he has shown for my career. I have met amazing friends, mentors, and coworkers in the US, whom I consider family now. Having this good support system has helped me overcome this obstacle.
As an aspiring woman scientist, I wish someone had told me how important it is to speak up, ask questions, and be bold. I was reluctant to ask questions; worried it would expose my ignorance. I also wish I knew the importance of good mentors. Establishing these relationships during the early years of your career and learning how to connect to people are very helpful.
Believe in your dreams, be passionate about your work, and enjoy what you do. Do not limit your dreams or get discouraged. Be persistent and do not get bogged down by failures or setbacks. Make sure you seek motivated and knowledgeable mentors. With a career in STEM, you will be able to make important contributions to society!