Mikkelsen Encourages Women in STEM through SPIE Women in Optics Planner

Maiken Mikkelsen, the Nortel Networks Assistant Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering and assistant professor of physics at Duke, was featured in this year’s SPIE Women in Optics planner. Each year since 2005, SPIE—the international society for optical engineering—has produced the planner highlighting women in the fields of science and engineering to support and promote the work of female scientists. Since its inception, the planner has also become a tool for introducing girls and young women to the possibilities of careers in all sciences, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

This planner includes photos and interesting facts about women who are making a difference through their work and other contributions to the fields of science, optics and engineering. Five thousand copies of the planner are printed and distributed, free of charge, in more than 25 countries worldwide.

Mikkelsen’s entry contains the following advice:

“I have been fascinated by understanding the natural world for as long as I can remember. Physics was always my favorite subject in school. I was amazed by the beauty and often simple laws governing everything around us, so studying physics in college followed naturally. During my last year in college, I was an exchange student at University of California, Santa Barbara, and did research as part of an independent study class. I loved designing and doing hands-on experiments; I found it to be a very creative process. The experience convinced me that I had to go to graduate school.

I lead a research group exploring the behavior of novel nanoscale structures and materials by studying their interaction with laser light, which may lay the foundation for future quantum- or nano-based technologies. I spend my time managing my group which consists of graduate and undergraduate students, as well as postdoctoral associates, discussing research progress and troubleshooting, thinking about new experiments and writing proposals to fund the research, and then of course I teach physics and engineering classes to undergraduate and graduate students.

Follow your heart and do what you love!”