Barbara Pietka

Barbara Pietka - 2022 SPIE Women in Optics Planner

Lead Physicist
Institute of Experimental Physics, University of Warsaw

Barbara Pietka

Born in Poland
Resides in Poland
Educational Background: Doctor of Physics, University of Warsaw and Université Joseph Fourier; Habilitation, University of Warsaw

I have always been attracted to the freedom of thought, to discover new things, and to reflect on the richness of phenomena in nature. This is how I imagined scientists. Later, I discovered the peace of the laboratory and the ability to test by myself how things work. Finally, I discovered the pleasure of talking to people who think similarly, and it has remained that way to this day, which is why I enjoy working in the scientific community.

Now I lead a research team that investigates optical properties of materials in photonic structures. I feel responsible for keeping our research at a high level, interesting to scientists, but also to young students. To join teaching and science, I always try to compare the classical understanding of physical phenomena with recent discoveries.

Time constraints have always been the biggest obstacle for me. The moment when I have to choose between different projects, teaching responsibilities and people are always the hardest. Now I know that you need a good plan and schedule, as well as a long-term vision of the development of a given project and career.

The most valuable advice for me at the beginning would be: don’t be afraid of not knowing, ask as many questions as possible. Contact professionals and get answers. Find a mentor. A career in STEM is a beautiful journey that allows you to look at our world with the understanding and conviction that your decisions are based on knowledge. It gives you the power to construct new things and be useful.

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