Judith Su

Judith Su - 2020 SPIE Women in Optics Planner

Assistant Professor
Department of Biomedical Engineering and College of Optical Sciences
University of Arizona, USA

SPIE Lifetime Member

Judith Su

Country of Birth: USA
Country of Residence: USA
Educational Background: BS, MS in Mechanical Engineering, MIT; PhD in Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics, Caltech


I was inspired to work in science and engineering by my father who is a mechanical engineering professor. I have always thought that he is the greatest person ever. As just one example of how he inspired me, when I was in the second grade, we were told to make a solar cooker by wrapping a paper plate in aluminum foil. My dad asked me what I was doing. When I explained to him the assignment, he showed me how to use a parabola to focus light. He showed me how to plot a parabolic function on paper and cut many of them out to make a large supporting structure which we covered with aluminum foil. The final solar cooker was immense. I couldn’t get my arms around it. It was the only solar cooker in the class that worked and I cooked hot dogs for the entire class the next day.

As a professor, my main responsibility is to discover new knowledge and nurture new talent. I lead a research group, mentor my research team, and introduce the latest advances to students in my class. I also write proposals to fund my Little Sensor Lab.

For me, getting a PhD was the biggest challenge that I have faced in my career. I made it through with support from friends, professors, and family. When I first began my PhD, I was always confused as to why people wrote in their thesis acknowledgments that they couldn’t have done it without their friends and family. When I finished my PhD, I truly understood the meaning of that sentence.

When I was first starting out, I wish someone had told me to be more skeptical about the results I read.

My little sister used to love watching The Magic School Bus. I remember the main character, Mrs. Frizzle saying, “Take chances, make mistakes, get messy!” I think that’s great advice for young girls or women considering a career in STEM.

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