Caterin Salas Redondo

Caterin Salas Redondo - 2022 SPIE Women in Optics Planner

Senior Research Engineer
L’Institut Photovoltaïque d’Île-de-France, France

SPIE Early Career Professional Member

Caterin Salas Redondo

Born in Colombia
Resides in France
Educational Background: Electronic and Electrical Engineering double degree, Universidad Tecnologica de Bolivar; Master in Nanotechnology for Integrated Circuits, Politecnico di Torino, Grenoble INP, EPFL; PhD in Physics, IAPP, Technische Universität Dresden

I found my passion for STEM when I discovered what creating new knowledge, being able to understand how things around us work, and solve large scale issues in society by technology means (that I would design and develop myself). That discovery hyped me up. Plus, you get to live and work on the cutting edge and that is fascinating!

I help to shape the sustainable industrial deployment of photovoltaic (PV) technologies in the zero-carbon transition. Because I understand the physics of photovoltaics and their life-cycle environmental impacts, I serve as subject matter expert and provide recommendations to design PV systems that are easily recyclable, use less critical materials, and avoid harmful chemicals. I also identify pathways to reach environmentally friendly targets. Finally, I write strategic recommendations for stakeholders and European policymakers.

I have faced two big challenges. The first one was at the very beginning of my career, when I had to convince my parents to support me in pursuing postgraduate studies abroad (out of reach of a family member or anybody they would know), when I was barely 21 years old. I got up the courage and prepared arguments to explain (and make them realize) the amazing work they have done raising me. So, they did not have a reason to worry and could trust in my capabilities to excel and take care of myself.

The second challenge was my career development as a new mom. I had the most-important role of being a mom with the arrival of my little one while still working. I managed it through open communication with my spouse. And I would advise others to have clear terms with your partner so you both get equal chance for career growth, while embracing and enjoying the family life.

I wish I had known this earlier: Be comfortable with trying new things, and don’t be afraid to reach out to others. Often, you may find opportunities that you think you can't pursue, but the truth is that you really can. It’s okay to feel uncomfortable and try things you’ve never done before, because you never know, it might turn out that you actually like it.

And to girls and women interested in STEM careers I would say: Don’t be discouraged. Believe in yourself, dream big, and work hard. Don’t hesitate to express your passion for STEM, as that will drive you to excel in whatever you wish to pursue. As Einstein said, “I have no special talent, I am only passionately curious.”

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