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Meet Charlotte Eling, Young Professionals Global Strategy Representative for Europe

Eling Lab

Charlotte Eling serves as the  IEEE Photonics Society’s Young Professionals Advisory Committee (YPAC) as its Global Strategy Representative for Europe, for 2023-2025. In her role, Charlotte represents the voice of members up to 15 years post their first degree that work within the globalization committee. Below is a short Q&A with Charlotte so that you can get to know her background and goals as a volunteer leader!

What is your current professional job?

I am a postdoctoral research associate in the Institute of Photonics at the University of Strathclyde, in Glasgow. I started this position in 2020 after completing my PhD in Nanophotonics at the University of Hull, where I also studied for my undergraduate degree in Physics. My current research is developing microlasers for biological applications.

What role do you hold within the Young Professionals Advisory Committee (YPAC)? What excites you about the responsibilities and/or strategic oversight of your position?

In the YPAC, I serve as Europe’s strategic globalization representative.. It is exciting to work on projects and initiatives that will help young professionals develop their careers in photonics. As globalization strategy representatives, it is our responsibility to spot trends and problems young professionals in photonics face in Europe and across the world, and look for ways we can aid in solving those issues.

What do you want to accomplish as a YPAC representative?

I want to empower young professionals, especially those from minority backgrounds, to further their careers in photonics. A lack of confidence and self-belief often stops people from fulfilling their full potential. I would like to help young professionals by offering career advice on how to transition from a Ph.D. to a postdoc to a permanent academic position. Additionally, I’d like to share techniques to help with mental health and battle crippling imposter syndrome. I would also like to start a discussion about how we can change our lives as postdocs, battling through temporary contracts while also navigating important life decisions like starting a family. This is especially important for women who are statistically more likely to take career breaks to care for children.

Why photonics? What was your “photonics moment” or personal journey story?

I always knew I was interested in physics from a young age. I was fascinated by how the world around me worked so I decided to do a physics degree. My interest in Photonics began during a bio-photonics summer project while studying for my undergraduate degree. I found using photonics as a tool to better understand biological systems to be incredibly engaging. As a result, during my master’s degree research project and Ph.D., I started working with nanomaterials, studying light-matter interactions on the nanoscale. This triggered my interest in multi-disciplinary work with photonics as the focus.

What about the IEEE Photonics Society’s mission and work really motivates you?

I like the fact that the IEEE photonics society’s mission is  to help everyone gain the same access to exciting research and science no matter their  social or ethnic background.

Presenting at IPC 2022 in Vancouver
Presenting at IPC 2022 in Vancouver

What’s one thing you wish someone had told you when you were an undergraduate student?

Don’t be afraid to ask questions, it doesn’t make you look stupid, and you’ll only learn something from it. Don’t be afraid to just give something a go, most of the time you’ll surprise yourself with your own ability.

Where or what do you turn to for continuous learning or skills development in your current career stage?

I try to say yes to every opportunity so I can continue to learn new skills. That could be anything from supervising students, grant writing, peer-reviewing papers to building new optical set-ups. During conferences, I like to attend the workshops or luncheons provided, as you can often develop a new skill or learn about a new subject area.

What steps do you think could be taken to better support early career professionals as they transition post-graduation into the industry workforce, research, and/or academic settings?

I believe the best support comes from people who have been through the transition themselves. Opening up a discussion with people who have taken different routes gives an insight into what decisions they had to make and what life is like for them now. This information is invaluable to young professionals when they themselves begin to make those decisions.

Tell us something fun about yourself!

I love to bake. I’ll bake anything from giant cakes to croissants. It’s fun to use science to create something especially if it’s edible! I am also a keen runner, which helps to burn off the calories from all the cake. This year, I’ll be attempting to run my first marathon alongside the banks of Loch Ness!