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Pearl John

Pearl John

Pearl John
(on left)
Light Express Coordinator,
School of Physics & Astronomy,
University of Southampton, UK

Who or what inspired your career choice? I was 15 years old visiting London, when walking past the window of a gallery something caught my eye -- it was a hologram of a hand holding an apple. As I walked past the hologram the apple disappeared. I was spell-bound. It wasn't the image I was fascinated by, but the technology. I was instantly hooked. I got a job in that gallery, met holographers and learned how to make holograms. I built a holography studio in my parents' garage and eventually took a Master of Arts degree in Holography at the Royal College of Art.

What is exciting about your work? Teaching holography and being a member of SPIE has taken me all around the world.
In my new job as the Light Express Coordinator I visit schools with a couple of Postgraduate Physics Students. We put on a Laser Light Show (lightexpress.soton.ac.uk) and give a dynamic presentation on photonics to students, and try to encourage them to study physics and photonics at the University of Southampton. We have recently started to invite the schools into the University to make holograms and to take part in number of other hands-on activities. Everyone loves going away with their own hologram and I really enjoy their enthusiasm. I learn something new from my graduate student helpers every day. Finding out about their research projects is fascinating. I wasn't trained as a physicist, so I do have a lot to learn. Southampton's School of Physics & Astronomy is one of the best in the UK and we have 'state-of-the-art' equipment.

Knowing what you know now, what educational route would you recommend for aspiring optical scientists? Network through SPIE, find a mentor -- perhaps through Women in Optics -- or just research a job that you like the look of and go and interview the person in that job to ask how they got to where they are. Be brave.