Skip to main content

#FacesofPhotonics: Imperial College Postdoc, Hannah Williams

"With my lasers!"
SPIE's Faces of Photonics series is sharing the story of Dr. Hannah Williams! Hannah recently graduated from Imperial College London after completing her thesis on ultracold molecules. She now continues that research as a postdoctoral research associate in the College's Centre for Cold Matter.

Along with her postdoc work, Hannah recently announced via Twitter that she is a Doctoral Prize Research Fellow for The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council. This recognition is yet another achievement to add to her impressive list of accomplishments, which includes organizing and leading events such as the Gamechangers for Diversity in STEM event held recently at the Alan Turing Institute in London, of which SPIE was a sponsor.

Enjoy the interview with Hannah, and be sure to follow her on Twitter.

During her PhD, Hannah spent two months conducting research at
Columbia University

1. Tell us about when you first became interested in optics and photonics.

I did a summer placement in a lab during my undergraduate. This was the first time I'd ever used a laser, which was exciting enough as it is. But I was working with a dye laser, which is a beautiful if frustrating piece of equipment. From then on I never looked back!

2. Share your favorite outreach or volunteer story.

Hannah and a colleague covered in cornstarch after 
Girls In Physics Day

I was running an experiment for a Girls In Physics Day. The experiment was to make non-Newtonian fluids, namely cornstarch and water. To begin with, the girls would be worried about getting dirty, but after a few minutes, they were elbow deep, covered in cornstarch, and making their fluids dance on a speaker!

3. Explain your current research, and how it can impact society.

I trap and cool molecules down to microkelvin temperatures (millionths of a degree about absolute zero) using laser beams. Cold molecules are slow molecules, and stationary molecules could be used to make very precise measurements of the molecules' internal structure. Such measurements could help answer some of the biggest mysteries in physics, such as: why is there so little antimatter in existence? Why is the universe expanding at an accelerating rate?

4. What is your advice for others in the STEM community?

Find your people. A sense of belonging and community within STEM is so important to its success and future. If you can't find a community then build one. Be yourself and support others to make a more inclusive environment. STEM needs a diverse range of people, that includes you!

Selfie time! Hannah and friends cycled 100 km from London to
 the seaside resort town of Brighton.


SPIE’s #FacesofPhotonics social media campaign connects SPIE members in the global optics, photonics, and STEM communities. It serves to highlight similarities, celebrate differences, and foster a space where conversation and community can thrive.

Follow along with past and present stories on SPIE social media channels:







Or search #FacesofPhotonics on your favorite social network!

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

#FacesofPhotonics: Optimax Director of Technology and Strategy, Jessica DeGroote Nelson

SPIE Senior Member Jessica DeGroote Nelson works as the director of technology and strategy at Optimax Systems in Ontario, New York. She also teaches as an adjunct assistant professor at The Institute of Optics at the University of Rochester (UR), and is a Conference Chair for SPIE Optifab 2019. 
Nelson also teaches Optical Materials, Fabrication, and Testing for the Optical Engineer at SPIE conferences. This course is geared toward optical engineers who are hoping to learn the basics about how optics are made, and ways in which to help reduce the cost of the optics they are designing. It is also offered online.
"Optical tolerancing and the cost to fabricate an optic can be a point of tension or confusion between optical designers and optical fabricators," Nelson says. "I teach this course to help give optical designers who are new to the field a few tools in their toolbelt as they navigate tolerancing and purchasing some of their first designs. One of the things I lov…

Taking a Deep Dive into the World of Biophotonics

SPIE Student Member Gavrielle Untracht is pursuing her PhD at The University of Western Australia. She had the chance to participate in the 9th International Graduate Summer School in Biophotonics this past June on the island of Ven between Sweden and Denmark.

At the school, sponsored by SPIE, invited experts from around the globe gave extended presentations on topics like tissue optics, strategies for cancer treatment using lasers, and entrepreneurship in photonics. Attendees also had the opportunity to present their current research projects, results, or ideas. Gavrielle shares her experiences of the summer school with this community in the following guest blog post.


I recently returned from a week of great discussions and beautiful weather at the 9th Biophotonics Summer School on the Isle of Ven, Sweden. This experience, made possible (in part) by SPIE, was an invaluable opportunity for networking and a deep dive into the world of biophotonics that I would highly recommend to any…

#FacesofPhotonics: Applied Optics Master's Student Christiane Ebongue

Bonjour! Meet Christiane Ebongue, graduate student at Delaware State University (DSU). Christiane is working on a master's degree in applied optics with a goal of achieving a PhD in Physics. When she is not spending time in the lab —something she says she loves so much, she would even want to be there on her birthday! — she enjoys her role as president of her university's SPIE Student Chapter.

Ebongue moved to the United States from Cameroon for college, although she only spoke French at the time. Learning to speak a new language while learning a new field of science was intimidating, she says, but this feat just speaks to how tenacious of a person Ebongue is.

Another example of this steadfast dedication and passion lies in her photonics advocacy work. After defending her thesis in the morning, Ebongue hopped in her car and drove from Delaware to Washington D.C., to participate in Congressional Visits Day, without missing a beat!

"It was awesome, I don't regret it at …