Faces in Photonics: Elizabeth Illy, HÜBNER Photonics

Sept. 9, 2022
Meet Elizabeth Illy, the head of marketing for HÜBNER Photonics and director of marketing, regional sales at Cobolt, now a HÜBNER company.

The Faces in Photonics series shines a light on scientists, researchers, and educators from all over the world whose work is reshaping the optics and photonics industry.

This month, we feature Elizabeth Illy, the head of marketing for HÜBNER Photonics and director of marketing, regional sales at Cobolt, now a HÜBNER company. With more than two decades of experience in the optics and lasers industry, she has a unique perspective on its evolution and continued advancement.

Justine Murphy: What attracted you to photonics/optics?

Elizabeth Illy: I was strong at math and physics in school. My uncle, a laser physicist, encouraged me to apply for a new specialized degree in optoelectronics instead of a more general engineering program. It was, at that time, unusual with such applied degrees, but this meant we got to experiment with lasers and optics right from the beginning. I fell in love with lasers during this course and one thing led to another, which resulted in a career in lasers!

JM: What do you enjoy about the industry, and what do you find challenging?

EI: It’s always been exciting to be at the cutting edge of technology. Early in my career, lasers were still very allusive to most people and not many had heard of or understood what lasers were, so it was quite ‘cool’ to be working in such an area. Nowadays it’s a bit of a different story—lasers have been integrated into many aspects of our lives. In both cases, lasers and photonics are still at the cutting edge, helping us to live simpler, richer, and fuller livesand that’s simply pretty exciting!

The challenges have been finding enough time to do everything. An exciting work life means a lot of the down time is also relaxing around the same technology. It’s also been challenging sometimes to know which way to take your career. Should I continue in research or go into industry? R&D or sales? After having a family, the definite challenge is the work-life balance. Luckily, in Sweden, we have a strong cultural acceptance of a healthy work-life balance, so I have been able to have a successful career and a family.

JM: What advice do you have for women who are just entering the photonics/optics field?

EI: Buckle up for an exciting ride! It’s hard work, but terribly rewarding and extremely satisfying. It’s eternally evolving and that means there’s never a dull moment. There are so many opportunities to explore, too, be it working or studying abroad, starting your own company, or working for a large corporation…right now, photonics is really booming.

About the Author

Justine Murphy | Multimedia Director, Laser & Military

Justine Murphy is the multimedia director for the Laser & Military Group at Endeavor Business Media. In addition to Laser Focus World, the group includes Military & Aerospace Electronics and Vision Systems Design. She is a multiple award-winning writer and editor with more 20 years of experience in newspaper publishing as well as public relations, marketing, and communications. For nearly 10 years, she has covered all facets of the optics and photonics industry as an editor, writer, web news anchor, and podcast host for an internationally reaching magazine publishing company. Her work has earned accolades from the New England Press Association as well as the SIIA/Jesse H. Neal Awards. She received a B.A. from the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts.

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