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15 June 2022

20 exceptional students mamed Optica Foundation Optica Women Scholars

WASHINGTON – Today, the Optica Foundation recognized the inaugural class of Optica Women Scholars. The new program provides visibility, community, and resources for women in optics and photonics via financial support, professional development, and establishing a global network as they enter the field. The scholarship is awarded based on need, academic performance, and demonstrated potential.

Launched in January 2022, the program garnered 160+ undergraduate and Master’s level student applications from 36 countries. The selection process was highly competitive, given the exceptional pool of applications.

“The committee was tasked with the difficult job of selecting recipients from a truly inspiring field of applicants, said Jessica Pastor, II-VI and selection committee member. “These twenty remarkable women are part of the future of optics who deserve recognition and support as they work to become true leaders in our field.”

The following outstanding scholars were selected to receive a US$10,000 scholarship to reduce financial hurdles and barriers, allowing them to focus on their academic experience:


  1. Emma  Abbey, University of Victoria, Canada
  2. Dulce María Badia, University of Murcia, Spain
  3. Apoorva Bisht, University Of Arkansas, Fayetteville, USA
  4. Jennifer Bragg, University of Arizona, USA
  5. Klaudia Dilcher, University of Warsaw, Poland
  6. Alice Drozdov, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa
  7. Ilgim Efeturk, Izmir Institute of Technology, Turkey
  8. Mackenzie Essington, Western University, Canada
  9. Ana Garrigues Navarro, Universitat de València, Spain
  10. Anastasia Goulopoulos, University Of Massachusetts Lowell, USA
  11. Jaclyn John, University of Arizona, USA
  12. Jodi Kreiner, University of Arizona, USA
  13. Elena Moreno, University of Murcia, Spain
  14. Maimuna Nagey, Multimedia University of Kenya, Kenya
  15. Lalitasri Nandivada, University of Waterloo, Canada
  16. Natasha Nehra, The University of Texas at Austin, USA
  17. Isabella Pardo, University of Central Florida, USA
  18. Yaoqi Tang, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, China
  19. Trulani van der Heyde, University of Auckland, New Zealand
  20. María José Villamarín, Universidad San Francisco de Quito, Ecuador

“When I came up in the world of optics, women peers and role models were rare,” said Janet Fender, 1997 Optica President and selection committee member. “I was thrilled to see the outstanding applicants for this program and am elated with the first twenty exceptional women selected of the 200 to be recognized by 2031. These scholars will be peers to each other and mentors to the generation coming next.”

This program began with discussions between Janet Fender, her husband, L. John Otten and the Optica Foundation’s leadership, and it was made possible by their support as well as fellow US$100,000 donors: II-VI Incorporated; Corning Incorporated; Google LLC; Meta Platforms, Inc.; Innolight Technology USA Inc; Intel Corporation; NeoPhotonics Corp; Source Photonics; and Elizabeth A. Rogan, Optica CEO. The Optica Foundation Board of Directors allocated US$1,000,000 to match the ten founding contributions.

Additional contributions from the community helped to fund the scholarship from Edmund Optics; Ursula Gibson, 2018 Optica President; Joseph Goodman, 1992 Optica President; Marvell Semiconductor Inc; Eric Van Stryland, 2006 Optica President; and James Wyant, 2010 Optica President.

The scholarships support undergraduate and Masters-level students studying physics, math, engineering, optics and photonics. In addition to the scholarship, each recipient will have access to professional development resources from Optica, including membership and mentorship. For more information about this program visit:

Optica Foundation

Established in 2002, the Optica Foundation carries out charitable activities in support of the society’s student and early career members. We cultivate the next generation of leaders and innovators as they navigate advanced degree programs and become active members of research, engineering and business communities worldwide. The foundation also works to secure the endowments for Optica’s awards and honors programs. The foundation is registered as a 501(c)(3) non-profit. For more information, visit

About Optica

Optica, Advancing Optics and Photonics Worldwide, is the society dedicated to promoting the generation, application, archiving and dissemination of knowledge in the field. Founded in 1916, it is the leading organization for scientists, engineers, business professionals, students and others interested in the science of light. Optica's renowned publications, meetings, online resources and in-person activities fuel discoveries, shape real-life applications and accelerate scientific, technical and educational achievement. Discover more at:

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