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: Rising Researcher Alina Zare

SPIE's #FacesofPhotonics is sharing the story of Alina Zare, Associate Professor at the The Machine Learning and Sensing Lab at the University of Florida. Dr. Zare was recognized as a 2018 Rising Researcher for her work in Electronic Imaging & Signal Processing, at the SPIE Defense + Commercial Sensing conference.

This program recognizes early career professionals who conduct outstanding research in the defense, commercial, and scientific sensing, imaging, optics, or related fields. If you want to learn more about the program, the details are here.

Enjoy the interview with Alina!

1. Tell us about when you first became interested in optics and photonics. In my senior year of  undergraduate studies in computer science, I was taking an Image Processing elective.  I really enjoyed the course, and the professor for the class, Dr. Gerhard Ritter, encouraged me to do some undergraduate research.  
So I joined Dr. Paul Gader's research lab as a undergraduate researcher where I he…

#FacesofPhotonics: Photovoltaics PhD Student Arfa Karani

Meet this week's SPIE Faces of Photonics feature, Arfa Karani. Arfa is a physics PhD student at the University of Cambridge, studying the physics of solar cells. She is originally from India, but has lived outside her home country for many years while pursuing her education. 

Arfa was also President of the SPIE Student Chapter at the University of Cambridge in 2017-18, and continues to remain involved with the chapter when she's not hard at work in the university's Cavendish Lab.


Enjoy her interview!




1. How did you become interested in the optics and photonics field? Was there a person who inspired you?

My physics teacher at school inspired me. I got interested in studying optics because my curiosity was satisfied by this teacher, who was extremely enthusiastic about what they did. When you ask too many questions as a child, people try to divert your attention once they are tired of answering. Not this teacher.

I know it’s a bit cliché, but I was amazed by how one could cre…

#FacesofPhotonics and Women In Optics feature: IBM Researcher Anuja De Silva

Meet the SPIE Faces of Photonics star of the week, SPIE Member Anuja De Silva. Anuja grew up in Sri Lanka and now resides in Albany, New York, where she works as a materials and process researcher in the Semiconductor Technology Research division of IBM. Speaking of her work, she says, "I develop new types of materials and processes that help us to scale the size of computer chips... It's hardware development for next-generation semiconductor devices."

Anuja graduated with her Bachelor's in Chemistry from Mount Holyoke College and went on to get her Master's and PhD in Materials Chemistry from Cornell University. Upon conducting a research project for her undergraduate degree, she found her passion for optics and materials research.


"I have always been interested in math and science," Anuja shares. "The options in Sri Lanka, where I grew up, for a career as a research scientist were limited. My mother encouraged me to apply to college in the Unite…