Minella C. Alarcon
Programme Specialist (Physics & Mathematics)
Division of Basic and Engineering Sciences,
Natural Sciences Sector,
Country of origin: Philippines
Attending ALOP 2006 in marrakech, from right to left: Minella Alarcon, Zhora Ben Lakhdar, Margaret Samiji
It was a big challenge to be one of the two women who became the first laser specialists in the Philippines, and be tasked with setting up experimental research in physics in the university. As such, my optics career in the university was centered on teaching, training undergraduate students for research, and building up instrumentation for applied laser spectroscopy and laser remote sensing. Much time was given to preparing project proposals, building and acquiring equipment, and cooperating with the Department of Science and Technology that stood as the main funding source. Collaboration with research groups in the UK, Japan, and Australia was vital to these efforts that established the momentum for research. Joining UNESCO in 1998 gave a new turn to my professional career as a scientist. I learned more about the state of science and technology development in different countries, including gender issues in science and engineering and the urgent need for physics education reform. It has been very rewarding to work with physicists around the world in projects like Active Learning in Optics and Photonics (ALOP), which is changing the way optics and photonics are being taught. About 40% of participants to the ALOP workshops are women.