Andrea Armani

Andrea Armani - 2019 SPIE Women in Optics Planner

Ray Irani Chair of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science
Viterbi School of Engineering
University of Southern California, USA

Andrea Armani

Country of Birth: USA
Country of Residence: USA
Educational Background: PhD in Applied Physics
SPIE Member | SPIE Fellow


Much to the detriment of small appliances during my childhood, I have always been curious about how things work. As an undergrad, my TA introduced me to research and I was hooked. Undergrad research was truly a transformative educational experience. Instead of simply trying to understand the technology that already existed, I was contributing to the technology of the future. The ability to contribute in a positive manner to society inspired me then and continues to do so today.

As a professor I educate and advance knowledge by training the next generation of scientists and engineers. I teach undergraduate classes, mentor students in research projects in my group, and give lectures and seminars at conferences and universities.

When I was a child, my parents described me as stubborn. Some of my colleagues now describe me as persistent and focused. In reality, these are the same thing. But this trait was critical in overcoming the lack of support from some of my professors. It is very hard as an 18 or 22 year old (or 40 year old) to ignore negative comments from faculty members that you respect. However, just like I “selectively heard” my parents when I was two, I “selectively heard” professors when I was 20.

I wish someone had told me about engineering when I was young! Many of my colleagues come from families with engineers or high schools with engineering clubs, but I come from a family with no scientists, engineers, or doctors and my high school did not have a science club. My undergrad institution does not have an engineering degree program, so making my way into an engineering program took a while.

When you make a decision, get advice from as many people as possible. If you rely on a single person or even a couple people, your life decisions will be biased by their life experiences. I advise my students to have a suite of advisors and mentors — at least a dozen who are at different stages in their careers. They will all have different perspectives.

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