Danuta Sampson: The 2023 SPIE Diversity Outreach Award

The SPIE Diversity Outreach Award recognizes outstanding contributions to promoting diversity in the education, training, and participation of women and minorities in optics, photonics, electro-optics, and imaging technologies and applications
11 January 2023
Danuta Sampson in a classroom with children.

Danuta Sampson is a research fellow at the University of Western Australia, with expertise in optics, optical microscopy, vision science, ophthalmology, and image processing. Her primary research focuses on the design and construction of optics-based instruments for biology and ophthalmology, developing image-processing methods for visualization of subtle changes within the retina. Beyond research, her overarching passion lies in science communication, mentoring students at all stages of their studies and career, and in developing a more inclusive society. In the last 10 years, Sampson has been involved in more than 30 outreach programs aimed at raising general-public interest in optics. She participates at events aimed at encouraging female students to enter STEM; serves as a mentor to female high-school and university students; has initiated several optics student chapters across the globe; and tirelessly promotes professional development and scientific outreach to young and upcoming members of the optics and photonics community in Poland, Australia, and the UK.

An SPIE Senior Member, Sampson’s contributions toward promoting inclusion in science have garnered multiple recognitions. In 2011, she initiated a national contest in Poland called “The Art of Seeing.” The remit was to design optics tools to support the education and development of partially sighted children in Poland, and the venture was partially supported by educational outreach grants from SPIE and OPTICA. In 2014, she was a winner in Poland’s “Science Populariser” competition, as a scientist who significantly contributes to popularizing scientific knowledge. In 2017, she was invited, on the strength of her advocacy in building stronger connections between people with vision impairment and normal sight, to give a TEDx talk entitled “A Blueprint For Better Eye Health” at the University of Western Australia. In 2019, she was awarded an SPIE grant to support optics and photonics outreach activities in the county of Surrey, UK. She has acted as a peer reviewer for SPIE’s Journal of Biomedical Optics and was included in the 2020 Women in Optics Planner.

“Driven by personal experience, many of Dr. Sampson’s outreach, public engagement, and
mentorship efforts have been directed towards supporting people from disadvantaged
backgrounds,” notes SPIE Past President David Andrews of the University of East Anglia. “Coming from a low-income family, the first in her family to graduate from university, and being discouraged by some professors at the university from the pursuit of physics have all shaped her priorities. An especially notable feature is her engagement in working with children with vision impairment, who often feel excluded by their peers due to their disability. Dr. Sampson recognizes the power of creating opportunities in STEM for underrepresented groups. And, in doing that critical work, she offers these children not simply a way to improve their self-confidence, but a true sense of belonging in society.”

Meet the other 2023 SPIE Society Award recipients.

Read more about Danuta Sampson and the SPIE Diversity Outreach Award.


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