Faces in Photonics: Kathleen A. Richardson of CREOL

Aug. 3, 2022
Meet Kathleen A. Richardson, Pegasus Professor of Optics & Photonics, Materials Science, and Engineering at the University of Central Florida’s Center for Research and Education in Optics and Lasers (CREOL), the College of Optics and Photonics.

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 Kathleen A. Richardson, Pegasus Professor of Optics & Photonics, Materials Science, and Engineering at the University of Central Florida’s Center for Research and Education in Optics and Lasers (CREOL), the College of Optics and Photonics. With more than 35 years’ experience in the industry, she holds several positions, including fellowships with both SPIE and Optica.

Justine Murphy: What do you enjoy most about your work in optics/photonics?

Kathleen A. Richardson: The satisfaction in teaching students about optical materials research, which requires an understanding of both optics and materials science, as well as guiding them through their degrees and watching them go out into the world and exceed their own—and my—expectations. It doesn’t matter what the degree is, but all of my former students have gone on to do great things and largely still work in optical materials in some shape or form.

JM: What are some challenges you’ve faced during your years in the industry?

KAR: There are two things. One is being one of the few, or only, women in the room. Although this has changed a lot during the last decade, it has given me a great chance to mentor women at all points in their careers and to work with some amazing colleagues across the world.

The other challenge has been straddling the optics and materials science (optical glass science) fence—this has changed a lot in the last decade, as most optics folks now realize many component and device/system innovations come about by adding new functionality (optical or otherwise) to the material platform being used in an application. 

JM: What professional accomplishment(s) are you most proud of?

KAR: Elevating infrared optical glass to new levels through sustained efforts to push compositional and functional design into the infrared and then working with industry and national lab partners to demonstrate that these materials with engineered functional properties can be commercially viable. This changes the paradigm that such innovation can be made from smaller volumes of specialized material and without melting “tons” of glass.

And most recently, I’m proud to be part of the team whose efforts resulted in the declaration of 2022 as the United Nations’ International Year of Glass.

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

KAR: Be persistent. While we women sometimes feel we need to work hard, sometimes harder than men, persistence is an approach that anyone new to a field should take. When you straddle disciplines—something that has become very attractive to employers—you need to know broadly your specific areas, but be able to learn deep partnering when necessary to compliment your strengths and compensate for your weaknesses.

About the Author

Justine Murphy | Senior Editor

Justine Murphy 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.

Voice your opinion!

To join the conversation, and become an exclusive member of Laser Focus World, create an account today!