Dr. Colleen Fitzpatrick
Rice Systems, Inc.
Who or what inspired your career choice? I have many interests besides science, so I wanted to stay as knowledgeable as I could in many different areas. I chose to go into science because this way I felt I could still stay involved with the humanities in a significant way. I did not think it would work as well the other way around. My degree is in nuclear physics, but after graduate school, I quickly became fascinated with holograms, as a way of combining science, art, and psychology. At the university where I was on the faculty, there was more opportunity to work in lasers and optics then nuclear physics, so that it was a natural way to go. Optics and nuclear physics are very similar, with the goal of getting a particle from point A to point B and seeing what happens when it crashes against something. It does not matter if you use electrostatic mirrors and lenses or pieces of quartz to do this, it's the same idea, only using a different particle.
What is exciting about your work? Everything. I love learning. Not only does being a scientist offer professional challenges, it has opened my world to meeting very interesting people with a variety of backgrounds and interests who I can learn from.
Knowing what you know now, what educational route would you recommend for aspiring optical scientists? Do what you do best and have fun.