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#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!

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