From PhD to CEO: Making an Exciting Leap into Business

Ever wondered what challenges you might face when not only transitioning to industry but also when setting up your own business? In this webinar series, young European entrepreneurs share their stories of how they moved from the lab to the executive office. This series is a joint initiative of Optica and the EPS Young Minds Program. Its objective is to foster innovation and entrepreneurship amongst young physicists and provide insights into the European start-up culture.

Upcoming Events: 

Meet Heli Valtna, LightCode Photonics, Estonia
Thursday 24 February 2022, 18:00 EET, 17:00 CET, 11:00 US EST
Register here.




Heli Valtna, PhD, is a co-founder and the CEO of deep tech startup LightCode Photonics. Valtna holds a PhD in Physics, specializing on wave optics, from the University of Tartu, Estonia, and completed postdoctoral studies at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Light, Germany. In 2017 she was awarded with the Young Scientist Award by the Cultural Foundation of the President of Estonia and she is a member of The Estonian Young Academy of Sciences.

LightCode changes the way a robot looks at you by delivering the world's first Software Defined 3D Camera for the service robots to automate mobility-related tasks on ground, at sea, in air, and in space. LightCode uses an innovative approach for acquiring 3D images based on decades of research in optics and light detection. They package LiDAR performance into an economical and compact 3D camera. This is a breakthrough technology for mobility.


Meet ​Piotr Węgrzyn, Candela Foundation, Poland
Tuesday 15 March 2022, 16:00 CET, 10:00 US EST
Register here.




Piotr Węgrzyn is a co-founder and CEO of Candela Foundation. He is also a PhD student at the University of Warsaw and International Centre for Translational Eye Research, Poland, developing new techniques of eye imaging combing tunable lasers, ultrafast cameras, and various light modulation techniques. Previously, Piotr has completed his Master in Photonics at Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya (BarcelonaTech), Spain, based on a thesis project prepared under the supervision of Turgut Durduran (ICFO). 

In 2021, he created a spin-off, Candela Foundation, with colleagues from the University of Warsaw. The foundation aims to support young people who develop optics and photonics in Poland by providing community-driven programs and services, allowing the community to grow.


Past Events:

Meet Francisco Rodrigues, PICadvanced, Portugal
Friday 26 February 2021



Francisco Rodrigues received his Master's Degree in Electronics and Telecommunication from Universidade de Aveiro in 2014 and currently is doing a PhD in the Doctorate in Business and Innovation program from the same university. With a research focus on Photonic Integrated Circuits and NG-PON2, Francisco worked as a researcher at Instituto Telecomunicações and as an intern in PT Inovação e Sistemas. In 2015 he joined PICadvanced as optoelectronic engineer contributing to the development of ONU transceivers for NG-PON2 and photonic integrated circuit platform. Current topics of interest are photonic integrated circuits for PON and Terahertz optoelectronics. Since 2017 Francisco has been the CEO of PICadvanced S.A.

Watch the recorded event here.


Meet Falko Schmidt, Lucero Bio, Sweden
Wednesday 10 March 2021



Falko completed his Master of Science in Physics at the University of Leipzig, Germany before moving for his PhD to Gothenburg, Sweden. He has been working on the optical manipulation of micro- and nanoscale systems, gaining a better understanding of the fundamental physics involved in such processes and working towards new types of nanomachines for intelligent drug delivery systems. He completed his PhD in January 2021. Since 2019 he has created together with a couple of colleagues a spin-off from their research at Gothenburg University to aid other scientists and researchers in the faster development and testing of new potential drugs. In 2019 the startup Lucero Bio was born and has been growing in size ever since.

Watch the recorded event here

Meet Maria Aymerich, bFlow, Spain
Tuesday 30 March 2021



M. Aymerich finished her Physics degree at the University of Santiago de Compostela, Spain in 2014. The next year, she completed a Master in Photonics and Laser Technologies and obtained the PhD in the same University in 2019. Her thesis focused on the fabrication of microfluidic devices via laser structuring for different biomedical applications. She collaborated with multidisciplinary teams, including the cardiology and oncology research groups as well as nonlinear physicists. She was awarded some prizes regarding her research in the fabrication of in-vitro blood vessel devices, and in 2020 she participated in the constitution of a spin-off company called bFlow, devoted to microfluidic solutions. Today, she is part of the scientific advisory board of the company and continues her research career in the Álvaro Cunqueiro Hospital (Vigo) with the Radiodiagnosis Service.

Watch the recorded event here


Meet Michael Förtsch, Q.ant, Germany
Friday 16 April 2021



After finishing his physics studies Michael worked on his doctoral thesis at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Light in Erlangen, Germany, for which he was later awarded with the Otto-Hahn-medal of the Max Planck Society. Following a research stay at the National Institute of Standards and Technology he entered industry as a strategy advisor for TRUMPF in Stuttgart, Germany. He worked as the executive assistant for the CTO of TRUMP, Dr. Peter Leibinger from 2016 until founding Q.ant in 2018.

Watch the recorded event here


Meet Bárbara Buades, MeetOptics, Spain
Wednesday 28 April 2021



Bárbara completed her PhD in the Attoscience and Ultrafast Optics group at The Institute of Photonics Sciences (ICFO) in Barcelona, Spain, and after graduating, she founded her own startup, MEETOPTICS. In this webinar, she will talk about the decision process leading to her choice to found a startup, as well as the career options that are available for a PhD graduate in photonics. If you are interested in broadening your horizons about your  career paths after graduation, we highly recommend you join this webinar.

Watch the recorded event here


Meet Ruth Mackey, Mbryonics, Ireland
Tursday 20 May 2021



Ruth Mackey is Co-founder and Chief Science Officer at Mbryonics, a company that specialises in free space laser communication and integrated photonics systems for the space sector.  Ruth trained in laser physics at Heriot-Watt University and went on to do a PhD in Adaptive Optics at NUI Galway. She and her brothers founded Mbryonics in 2014 to bring breakthrough science to market using advanced engineering and manufacturing of optics and photonics technoliges.  Based in Ireland, the company now operates with partners around the world designing and building infrastructure for the next generation of satellite communications. 

Watch the recorded event here


Meet Michele Lacerenza, PIONIRS s.r.l., Italy
Thursday 28 October 2021 



Michele Lacerenza is co-founder and CTO of PIONIRS s.r.l., a spin-off company with the aim of making neurophotonics technologies accessible to the world. He received his MSc in physics engineering, nano-optics and photonics from Politecnico di Milano in 2018 and is now pursuing a PhD at the same institute. His backpack is filled with international experience, he worked in various countries around the world, including US, UK, Europe and South America. He is now committed to developing the next generation of cerebral optical oximeters.

Watch the recorded event here.


Meet Claudia Hössbacher, Polariton Technologies AG, Switzerland
Tuesday 23 November 2021 



Claudia has always been fascinated by light. After her BSc degree in Electrical Engineering at KIT, Germany, the Master program in “Optics and Photonics” stimulated her interest in the interaction of light with smallest structures. Following this interest, she researched integrated photonics, plasmonics and electro-optics during her PhD at ETH Zurich. In 2019, she was awarded the ETH Pioneer Fellowship to transfer her research project into innovative products and co-founded Polariton Technologies to accelerate information transport and reduce its power consumption. Polariton is providing the world's fastest, most compact, and energy-efficient electro-optic devices with applications in telecommunications, datacenters, wireless communications (5G/6G), space, and sensing. Founded in 2019, Polariton is a spin-off of ETH Zurich, taking pride in teamwork, clear and effective communication, and curiosity.

Watch the recorded event here