As evidenced by a strong showing at ICALEO 2005, women are playing an increasing role in laser research and industry
Laureen J. Belleville
ILS was pleased to see a number of women attending and presenting papers at LIA’s 24th International Congress on Applications of Lasers & Electro-Optics (ICALEO), which was held October 31-November 3 in Miami. We spoke with three of these women to get their perspective on the challenges of working in a traditionally male-dominated industry and to find out more about who they are.
We congratulate Layla Mayboudi of Queens University, Kingston, ON, Canada. Her paper, “A 2-D thermal model for laser transmission welding of thermoplastics” was awarded second place in the student paper submissions. And this was her first ICALEO experience. Mayboudi, originally from Iran and now living with her husband in Canada, is a doctoral student in the Department of Mechanical and Materials Engineering and eventually would like to teach at the university level. “I love to research and I love to teach people what I know,” she says.
Industry has not always been supportive of women, she notes. But, she says, “Women are creators; we have great minds.” Further, she says, “It doesn’t matter if you are a man or a woman; just be competent.”
Layla Mayboudi and Laureen Belleville
In Laser Materials Processing Session 3: Hybrid Laser Welding, Anna Feldman of the Lappeenranta Laser Processing Center (LUT, Lappeenranta, Finland) presented a paper titled “A study of the phenomenon of CO2 laser welding with filler wire and CO2-MAG hybrid welding”-her second paper presentation at her third ICALEO. She did her masters thesis about shielding gases in CO2-MIG/MAG hybrid welding in the laser processing laboratory at LUT and decided to stay after graduation. Since then she has worked as a research scientist in industrial research projects concerning laser and laser hybrid welding and on-line process monitoring for laser welding. “While working closely with industry,” Feldman says, “I am trying to do my doctoral thesis about phenomena in laser hybrid welding processes. My professional plans in the future will be to become a better specialist in this field.” She adds, “Maybe one day I will be able to run a business or work in industry in the laser processing field.”
She believes that, in a male-dominated field, a woman has to try to be better than a man in order to be taken seriously. And, she says, “You have to try to understand the minds of men. It helps if you are outspoken and able to defend yourself.” She attributes part of her success to having a great support system. It helps that there are three women working in research in her lab. “For me, personally,” she notes, “the best supporter in our lab is Docent Antti Salminen, who has a lot of faith in my skills and always gives me his support.” On the other hand, she is quick to add, “The best supporter in my life is my fiancé Janne, who raises me up when things seem to go badly. And I cannot forget to mention my father and friends, who also give their valuable support.”
Feldman is quite busy outside of the lab as well. She plays the piano and has taken classical singing lessons since she was 17 years old. For the past five years she has been part of a band, Ardana. Additionally, she has a one-year-old rottweiller that she is training to find people who are lost in woods or ruins.
ICALEO 2005 presented Ting Huang with her first opportunity to visit the U.S. Huang, from Tsinghua University in Beijing, China, presented “Laser deposition of refractory Mo-Ni alloy” in Laser Materials Processing Session 6: Direct fabrication/rapid prototyping processes & systems. She credits her parents with guiding her in her academic choices.
As an undergraduate student she was introduced to the many benefits of laser processes in an overview course, which led her to take part in a student research training program where she conducted basic experiments in laser cladding. “I became interested in this area and I wanted to know what else I could do with a laser,” she recalls. “So I chose laser processing as my graduate major.” She is continuing her studies and would like to pursue her PhD outside of China.
In her spare time, of which there isn’t much, she likes to read-novels, travel notes, and philosophy. But dancing is what she enjoys most. She has formal dance training that includes basic skills of ballet and Chinese folk dance. “I like to dance very much and take part in some performances,” she says. “I think dance and music can make me relax during my research work.”
Huang has also found time for social work-organizing activities for and guiding undergraduate students. “How I assign my time is very important to me,” she notes. “But I try my best at whatever I do.”
Like many high-technology subjects, lasers have beneficially drawn a small but growing distaff representation. In Europe, especially in Germany, it has been quite common for a number of years to find women working and studying in graduate programs that focus on laser material processing technology. The University of Stuttgart’s Institut für Strahlwekzeuge is an outstanding example where women have excelled in laser processing studies and gained high visibility jobs in industry. In China, it is very noticeable at the leading universities where it seems that women significantly outnumber male students.
Is it possible that U.S. universities and consequently industry are missing out on a good thing?