Jinghui Yang - 2020 SPIE Women in Optics Planner
University of California, Los Angeles, USA
Country of Birth: China
Curiosity, imagination, and problem solving have been my motivation since high school. Once I followed my high school physics teacher into the preparation room after class and was entranced by a whole room of delicate instruments. I got hooked by the art that practically reveals the laws of physics with high precision. I decided to actively explore more and build novel structures and systems to better our society.
I currently work as a researcher at UCLA building nanoscale photonic devices and high-quality light sources for precise sensing, spectroscopy, and communications. I design and conduct optical experiments as well as analyze them through theory and calculation. I co-lead research projects, initiate ideas, and collaborate with many talented people on various topics. I work with and help mentor graduate and undergraduate students.
At the start of my career, I was focused on only scientific and engineering skills. I later realized that there are also important skills beyond these, such as time and resource management, effective verbal and written communication, and initiating and keeping collaborations. These skill sets can be learned specially and practiced with dedication. Asking for feedback from mentors and thought leaders is also an efficient way to adjust and improve.
Freedom and flexibility in academic exploration come with the requirement of expectation and outcome, especially when working in an aggressive environment. Setting up boundaries around your responsibilities is important, especially for underrepresented individuals. Not only is the work itself important, but also your sense of identity and self-worth.
STEM fields are fantastic and always challenge your mind. There is huge space for you to explore, reflect, and stand out. Whichever type of career you end up landing on, the rigorous training and creative pursuit deserves your effort and will reward you in the future.