Danuta Sampson - 2020 SPIE Women in Optics Planner
The University of Surrey, United Kingdom
Country of Birth: Poland
In school, I was good at all subjects, enjoyed reading books and discovering the world, playing musical instruments and singing. I was surrounded by very kind women, like my mother, godmother, and grandmother, who would provide me daily lessons on the importance of supporting others and being a good person. That early passion for science and life lessons from my relatives inspired me to direct my professional career towards the field of biomedical imaging; a field in which the science you do can positively impact human lives.
My research focuses on developing optics-based instruments, focusing on optical coherence tomography, and methods to be applied by clinicians for the study of retinal eye diseases. Beyond research, I have been involved in many outreach programs aimed at raising general public interest in optics and science. I am working with colleagues on an outreach project that aims to deliver hands-on activities, accessible for children with normal vision and impaired vision, that teach about light, vision, and vision impairment—and inclusion.
My biggest challenge is to be heard in a group of men. It has happened to me several times, that whilst participating in a discussion with only men and being the only one knowing the answer for the asked question, I was ignored. Now I say loudly what I think about it, hoping that one day such stereotyping will be dismissed.
Being tough and more confident helps in building your position in a competitive scientific environment. Being able to say no increases your chance of not being taken for granted, and therefore, be always motivated and inspired to help others.
If you are considering a career in STEM and you like problem-solving, just go for it! There is a need for more people in the field. Then, once you start this adventure always be passionate about what you do, believe in your potential, do your best (no need to be the best), be ethical, transparent and collaborative in your research.
Also be ready for challenges, stand up for yourself, and teach others how you want to be treated. Life is a journey to be experienced. Each experience, good and bad, has meaning allowing you to discover yourself, make yourself stronger, and grow as a confident person who eventually becomes an inspiration and a leader for others.