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Meet Olga Szewczyk, Young Professionals Education Representative

Olga Q&A
Olga Profile Pic

Olga Szewczyk was recently appointed to the IEEE Photonics Society’s Young Professionals Advisory Committee (YPAC) as its Education Representative for 2024-2026.

In her role, Olga represents the voice of members up to 15 years post their first degree from the perspective of education by advising on continuing education, eCourse development, IEEE Learning Network projects, STEM Outreach, and more.

Below is a short Q&A with Olga so that you can get to know her background and goals as a volunteer leader!

What is your current professional job?

Currently, I work as a Research Assistant at Wroclaw University of Science and Technology. I finished my PhD a few days ago and now I am working on the results of my research project funded by the Polish National Science Center. The topic of my research is connected to Nonlinear Phenomena in Optical Fibers.

Presenting the thesis defense
Light effects in an optical fiber when pumped with ultrafast laser source

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?

I’m the Education Representative for the YPAC. I serve as the liaison to the Society’s Education Committee, which provides quality educational initiatives for members, professionals, educators, K-12 students and the public. The Committee and its leaders focus on practical learning as well as delivering continuing education products, K-20 STEM outreach programs, hands-on training, remote learning resources, tutorials, and more. I plan to be a conduit for members up to 15 years post their first degree, by helping to create building blocks for lifelong learning. 

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

I always knew that I would work in STEM. Maths, physics, and chemistry fascinated me at school, and it was certain that my future occupation would be involved with them. However, at the same time, I wanted the job to be challenging and fun. That is how I found myself in the ultrafast lasers lab. After completing undergraduate and master’s degrees with theses about fiber pulsed lasers, I decided to continue my journey working on the nonlinear phenomena in optical fibers. 

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

Creating photonics solutions that serve people. I really hope that my work contributes to more advanced laser systems, especially. 

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

That failure is a part of the process and we need to make mistakes in order to develop. Also, we are the ones who limit ourselves the most. I think that I would be much more courageous in my research if I heard that earlier. 

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Poster session at the EOSAM Conference 2021 in Rome, Italy

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

Currently, I’m involved with my own research grant that requires me to develop skills such as time management, task prioritizing, leadership and teaching, and budget planning. I think it is a great opportunity for me to learn different techniques, some of which I got to know at the webinars or figured out by myself, others were suggested by my supervisor. 

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?

Honestly, it’s difficult for me to find the right answer, cause I think it mostly depends on the local regulations. So I’d say the best way is to handle this problem individually. Personally, I am thinking about doing the postdoc or transitioning into the industry, and so far the most helpful was networking with other people at the conferences/summer schools etc. It certainly solved some of the dilemmas I had. 

Tell us something fun about yourself!

I have three cats, I grow my own tomatoes, and I have a diving certificate.

One of the cats (Nala) as the emotional support during online lectures and webinars