With generous sponsorship from SPIE and OSA (Optical Society of America) Student Chapter, CUSPIE Student Chapter hosted a Student- Alumni Networking event on the 9th of June, 2017. With a panel of six successful University of Cambridge alumni coming back to inspire and motivate the next generation of scientists, it was yet another evening leaving a mark in the STEM student community.
Our alumni guests included Dr. Michael Butler (Mike), R&D Director at Unilever; Dr. Nicola Humphry-Baker (Nicki), Project Content Creator at Isaac Physics; Dr. Julia Attwood, Analyst at Bloomberg New Energy Finances; Dr. Hannah Stern, who will be starting as Junior Research Fellow at Trinity College soon; Dr. Rhiannon Mulherin working in the Business Development with Shell and Dr. George Gordon, Henslow Research Fellow at St. Edmund’s College.
Left to Right: Arfa Karani, Chapter Vice-President and Chair; Dr. Michael Butler (Mike), R&D Director at Unilever; Dr. Hannah Stern, Junior Research Fellow at Trinity College; Dr. George Gordon, Henslow Research Fellow at St. Edmund’s College; Dr. Julia Attwood, Analyst at Bloomberg New Energy Finances; Dr. Rhiannon Mulherin working in the Business Development with Shell and Dr. Nicola Humphry-Baker (Nicki), Project Content Creator at Isaac Physics.
The event was intended to give the student members an idea of various options available to STEM students after finishing their PhDs. Each of the speakers shared an inspirational story from their professional journey so far.
With an ensemble of speakers, all from different career stages, we received a beautiful variety of advice. While Hannah thought it helped her to go out of her way to learn new programming languages in her spare time during her PhD, Mike had a completely different opinion. According to Mike, each job or upcoming opportunity requires you to learn a new set of skills particular to that job, so meanwhile, enjoying your PhD is the key! However, they both agreed that for each person the journey will be completely different and taking breaks when you need them, taking a step back and thinking about your options, is a must!
It was inspiring to hear Rhiannon talk about her path to Shell and in the off shore wind energy sector in the heart of a well-established oil giant! Julia spoke beautifully about her time as an overseas student (from Canada) in Cambridge. She described her struggle as she relied on the careers service at the University to secure jobs in the UK after completing her PhD, a struggle many will be familiar with.
Many STEM students are passionate about outreach and Nicki, who obtained her PhD found an incredible way of converting this passion for outreach into a career! Her story about how she juggled her personal and professional life whilst finding a way to turn her passion into a career was truly motivating!
George gave us some extremely critical advice on how important ‘networking’ was towards his career and how he fought through all the rejections to accomplish what he really wanted. Having switched fields completely from telecommunications to biomedical optics, George had a lot of inspiring stories to share with the students over some wine afterwards!
A couple of general themes that stood out from all the talks were: everyone’s journey through their careers is going to be entirely different and that rejections are a part of all application processes. With this in mind, we need to be sure of what we want and persevere; un-swayed by the rejections we are all sure to face!
And another important lesson, perhaps unexpected to some, was to enjoy PhD life, and not whittle it away with worry. Research while you have the opportunity to do so and fulfil your curious souls. The evening ended with an elaborate canape and wine reception where the students got a chance to dig a bit deeper into the wealth of knowledge very kindly offered by our alumni guests.
We would like to thank everyone who attended this event and once gain extend a massive thank you to our generous speakers for giving up their time and wealth of experience for our student chapter community. Thank you!
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For two weeks in March, Cambridge became abuzz with excitement as the 2017 Cambridge Science Festival captivated audiences young and old across the city. This was a chance for the University of Cambridge SPIE Student Chapter (CUSPIE) to reach out to the general public and share our love of optics, photonics and general science.
On Saturday 25th March, our advisor, Dr. Sarah Bohndiek launched our activities with an exciting talk, ‘Shedding Light on Cancer’, in which she described the work of VISIONLab, her Cambridge research group, in manipulating light to detect cancer sooner.
Following this exciting talk, guests were invited to get hands on with some demonstrations at our stall, ‘What is the Colour of Cancer’, where Sarah was available to answer further questions.
Manned by real scientists from both CUSPIE and VISIONLab, the stall demonstrated the equipment we use to manipulate light, and gave the audience a chance to engage with the real researchers.
Polarising glasses were used to demonstrate the polarisation of light and diffraction gratings were used to show splitting of light into its constituent colours, much to the attendees’ delight!
And there was plenty of time for attendees to ask questions about the research going on right now.
The stall was another great success for CUSPIE and VISIONLab, gathering great feedback:
“The "What is the colour of cancer" was fascinating and the person was really engaging.”
“What is the colour of cancer was so cool and the person hosting it was really engaging and passionate.”
We hope to see many people return to our future events.
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This Monday (6th of March 2017) marked yet another successful event for SPIE Student Chapter Cambridge (CUSPIE). Our guest speaker, Ms. Alaina G. Levine from Arizona, USA was sponsored by SPIE, The Winton Programme for Physics of Sustainability and CamBridgeSens (EPSRC CDT in Sensor Technologies and Applications) to visit Cambridge and take part in a day full of exciting events.
The day kicked off with an enjoyable and highly interactive workshop titled ‘Transitioning from a PhD into the real world!’ where Alaina provided the attendees with detailed tips on how to probe self-interests and identify jobs that bring you ‘joy’. Specifically targeted towards PhD students, this workshop provoked discussion around transitioning out of academia into alternative careers.
Following this, Alaina was kind enough to provide one-to-one consulting sessions to nine lucky students who had signed up in advance. Each had 15 minutes of personal consulting with Alaina jam-packed full of useful tips and discussion tailored to them.
Through this event, CUSPIE was yet again successful in providing a platform for people across the world to connect. One of the students completing their PhD with the Winton Programme of Physics of Sustainability commented ‘I have had my CV analysed and criticised by a lot of people, but no one with her calibre. All the feedback was extremely useful!’
The afternoon came to a close with an exciting seminar, ‘How to land your dream career in science? – Networking for Nerds!’
Alaina’s unique, often comedic, style of delivery really stuck a chord with the audience of around 60 people, but never distracted from her depth and wealth of knowledge and advice.
In the concluding 30 minute Q&A session, Alaina’s interaction with the audience continued to deliver yet more wisdom as she enthusiastically established that scientists (or scientists in making) are AWESOME and could get AWESOMER if they brushed up on their networking skills.
These networking skills were put to the test in a food and wine reception. Guests mingled with Alaina and other like-minded attendees.
After about six hours of inspiring talks and discussions, CUSPIE committee members along with a few invited guests had the honour of dining with Alaina. Over delicious Thai food, we discussed ways to network, build connections and develop the student chapter further. CUSPIE committee is very grateful to our sponsors and SPIE for this wonderful opportunity.
Finally, we would like to extend an enormous thank you to Alaina for an incredible day. Her passion and enthusiasm was infectious and will surely have inspired attendees to consider their personal and professional development. Thank you Alaina!
CUSPIE will soon be organising an Alumni and Students networking session to engage students at various levels. Watch this space for more news!