Sara Madaan

Sara Madaan - 2022 SPIE Women in Optics Planner

Test Engineer Level 4, Devices and Services Product Area
Google, USA

Sara Madaan

Born in India
Resides in the US
Educational Background: BE in Biotechnology; MS in Physics and Optics in Medicine; MS in Electrical Engineering; PhD in Biomedical Engineering

I was inspired by a Ted Talk about optogenetics by Edward Boyden. It was the first time I found out there was a possibility that we could “read” all the information from a human brain and then “write” it into another brain. That seemed like a way to create eternal life. It was hard to not think that was cool.

Every Nest Smart Display device that Google sells is tested before shipping to the customer. I design and create end-to-end automated display test solutions for these devices. These test solutions test every single device to ensure it has a high-quality display before it is shipped to the customer.

Towards the end of the second year of my PhD, I was told that I needed to improve my output or leave the program. For the first three years of my PhD and the year prior to starting, I was going through some, let’s just say, pretty big stressors in my life which were causing me to do poorly in my PhD. The way I overcame this was by putting my head down and frankly doing a lot of damage to my mental health in the short term in order to survive. I had to be in my PhD program in order to stay in a country where I was at least somewhat safe. The lesson here is that survival is the most important thing in life, and even though mental health is a close second, you shouldn’t feel bad making whatever choices you need to make in order to survive. Sometimes we have to put everything else aside to focus on survival, even if it means working for a long time in the future to undo the damage we did to ourselves before in order to survive.

I wish someone had told me that if you know exactly what you want 10 years from now, with a little luck you can get it, even if it sounds completely implausible. But I also wish someone had told me that even when you reach the place that you think you want to reach or even when you surpass it twice over, you feel just as lost as you did when you started. Goal setting is a lifelong process.

So, I would tell young women and girls interested in STEM to think bigger than you think is possible. Because the possibilities are more than we can imagine.

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