Sara Diegoli

Sara Diegoli - 2021 SPIE Women in Optics Planner

Strategic Projects Manager
College of Science and Engineering
QuantIC Programme Manager
University of Glasgow, UK

Sara Diegoli

Born in Italy
Resides in UK
Educational Background: Degree in Chemistry, Università degli Studi di Ferrara; PhD in Nanotechnology, University of Birmingham

During my teens I was more interested in literature and art than science. All that changed when I started studying chemistry. I remember my father giving me one of his old books from his first year at university. Although I did not understand everything, it felt like someone had opened my eyes: the world, every object around me, the sky and the stars were all made of the same elements. The more I learned, the more I discovered elegance and poetry hidden in the laws of nature. My husband is an astrophysicist and an amateur astronomer so I often find myself looking at the night sky. To this day, I still find a deep sense of meaning looking at the stars and marveling at the inner workings of the physical world.

My work marries my passion for science with my creative skills. I work at the interface between academia and industry, identifying, shaping, and delivering large research and innovation projects. A large part of my role includes developing research visions, plans, and narratives for new opportunities, catalyzing major collaborative research and innovation grants. QuantIC, the UK Hub in Quantum Enhanced Imaging, is one of the projects in my portfolio. I also lead the development of the Clyde Waterfront Innovation Campus, the first nanofabrication-led innovation campus in the UK, targeting the industrialization of photonics and quantum technologies.

My biggest challenge, especially in the early stages of my career, was to build enough experience to be given the opportunity to measure myself against bigger, more complex projects that take me outside of my comfort zone. I enjoy large projects because there is never a dull day: even when everything is proceeding well, you are never in control of all the variables. Unforeseen issues and problems are always around the corner. When unexpected things happen, things get interesting.

One of the hardest skills I had to learn was to manage my most precious resource: my time. The key to maintaining my workload has been learning to recognize when something is good enough instead of wasting increasing amounts of time on ever diminishing returns.

The advice I would give to anyone starting out in their career is to remember that everyone’s journey is different. Be kind to yourself. We are all constantly learning, and we should never be afraid to admit that we do not have all of the answers. Successful people are not those who know everything and never make mistakes; they are those that have the humility to ask both the stupid and the difficult questions, and that have the courage of sharing with others what they have learned from their mistakes.

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