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María Yzuel awarded Medal of the Royal Spanish Society of Physics

29 January 2015

María Josefa Yzuel
María Josefa Yzuel

SPIE Past President and Fellow María Josefa Yzuel, professor emeritus at the Autonomous University of Barcelona (UAB) and president of the Spanish Committee of the International Year of Light 2015, has been awarded the 2014 Medal of the Royal Spanish Society of Physics.

The award is endowed with €15,000, and honors Yzuel for a "scientific and academic career which has greatly promoted the field of optics," and for her work on behalf of the Royal Spanish Society of Physics.

Yzuel studied physics at the University of Zaragoza because, she said "I liked mathematics, and to understand the phenomena of nature." Her parents were supportive despite prevailing community opinion "that there were other more appropriate subjects for a girl."

She graduated in physics in 1962 and earned her doctorate in 1966, with both Honors and the  Award of Civil Government of Zaragoza for the best doctoral thesis of the year. In 1967, she obtained a scholarship from the British Council for a postdoctoral stay at the University of Reading, and in 1971 won a professorship in optics and structure of matter at the University of Zaragoza -- the first woman in the physics area. In 1982 she became the University of Granada's second female professor, and a year later moved to UAB.

Yzuel's theoretical and experimental research in optics, particularly in information processing, imaging, displays, and liquid crystal devices, is reflected in over 250 publications.

In addition to serving as President of SPIE in 2009, she has served as Vice President of the International Commission for Optics, General Secretary of the European Optical Society, and President of the Spanish Society of Optics, and has worked at the International Centre for Science and Technology in Trieste on projects with scientists from developing countries.

Yzuel has always defended the importance of promoting opportunities for women in science, particularly physics, and was a founding member of the Focus Group on Women in Physics.