In this installment of senior member insights, OPN talks with Laeticia Petit, a professor in the Photonics Laboratory at Tampere University (TAU), Finland. She is also an adjunct professor in the Faculty of Biomedical Sciences and Engineering at TAU and in the Inorganic Chemistry Laboratory at Åbo Akademi University, Finland.
Petit’s current interests include the processing and characterization of novel active glasses/glass-ceramics and fibers for photonic applications. She focuses her research on understanding the composition-structure-property relationship in these materials, with the goal of tailoring new compositions to suit specific applications in photonics. Her interests have recently shifted toward developing novel biophotonic glass-based materials, especially biophotonics materials that could be used for in-vivo imaging. Her work has contributed to both the fundamental understanding of the materials’ chemistry, structure and properties as well as key processing- and fabrication-related advances that have enabled their integration and use in diverse optical applications.
What first interested you in pursuing science?
I think I owe my interest in science to the teachers I had in high school. They successfully passed on to me their passion for science.
What aspect of your current work do you find the most interesting or exciting?
I enjoy teaching students, even though it is not an easy job, and learning new things. The best thing about research in glass science is when you succeed in preparing a new glass for the first time. My favorite thing is that I am developing my own research projects.
What tips for successful networking do you have for early-career professionals?
Be active, present your work not only at large but also at small international conferences and get involved with diverse groups. More importantly, don’t forget that networking needs to be mutually beneficial.
What professional resources do you rely on to stay active and engaged with your field?
I try to attend a few conferences and lectures per year, as these are great opportunities to make new connections and engage with colleagues. I am also the vice chair of the International Commission on Glass‘s technical committee 20: photonic glasses and optical fibers. Meetings with the committee members are organized regularly to cover vital topics in glass science and technology.
What skills do you think are most important for someone interested in a career like yours?
I think the most important skill is communication. A person should know how to listen, write and speak. So someone should not only understand others’ emotions when building relationships but also clearly and effectively express their own thoughts and ideas. The other skills are teamwork and perseverance.
What’s the best career decision you’ve ever made, and why?
To work in different groups and different countries. After my Ph.D., I left France for the United States to continue my career as a post-doctoral researcher in Florida. I moved to South Carolina to work as a research faculty member and finally to Finland. I learned a lot while working in different research groups and in different countries.
What advice do you have for young scientists who are discouraged about their current work or career path?
Young scientists should be proactive in developing as a leader. My advice would be to never give up and to have a plan B. They have to be flexible by moving to other countries to gain international expertise and develop a network.
What is one piece of advice that you wish you were given as a student/early in your career?
Don’t be shy and believe in yourself! I was fortunate to have great mentors.
What habits do you frequently rely on that help you to succeed?
I am fortunate to live in Finland, so I am surrounded by forests. Hiking is one of my favorite activities. It really helps me to relax. I also have colleagues at Tampere University who I can go and talk to when I need advice. Let’s not forget my husband, also a professor at Tampere University, who has supported me in my career.
If you weren’t in the sciences, what would be your dream career?
I think I would have opened my own bakery, as I love cooking for my family.