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03 April 2023

20 exceptional students named Optica Foundation Optica Women Scholars

WASHINGTON – Today, the Optica Foundation recognized the 20 Optica Women Scholars. This 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.

Initially launched in January 2022, the program received nearly 180 undergraduate and Master's level student applications from 38 countries this year. The selection process was highly competitive, given the exceptional pool of applications.

"I feel honored to be part of the selection committee to choose 20 young women for the Optica Foundation scholarship," said Dr. Imrana Ashraf Quaid-I-Azam University, Pakistan. "STEM education for girls and young women is very close to my heart, and I am so happy to know these applicants are doing great work in optics. I am thrilled with this year's recipients, but the quality of the applicants made it a difficult decision."

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. Isabella Aguilera, Universidad del Valle, Colombia
  2. Jewel Ashbrook, Middlebury College, USA
  3. Manon Bart, Tulane University, USA 
  4. Gloria Davidova, Cornell University, USA 
  5. Alexis Guidi, University of British Columbia, Canada
  6. Christabel Isagi, Multimedia University of Kenya, Kenya
  7. Dana Kachman, Johns Hopkins University, USA 
  8. Paula Kirya, University of California San Diego, USA
  9. Linda Lin, University of Pennsylvania, USA
  10. Rebecca Mac, University of Waterloo, Canada
  11. Viviana Maldonado Estrada, Tecnológico de Monterrey, Mexico
  12. Mathu Mathi Murugavel, Indian Institute of Technology Madras, India
  13. Svenja Nerreter, University of Regensburg, Germany
  14. Sofía Obando Vásquez, Universidad EAFIT, Colombia
  15. María Sánchez Hernández, Universidad de Salamanca, Spain
  16. Lucía Camila Tasende Rodríguez, Ghent University, Belgium
  17. Jenna Veugen, University of Waterloo, Canada
  18. Yingchu Xu, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore 
  19. Mina Yoo, The University of Arizona, USA  
  20. Amanda Younes, University of California, Los Angeles, USA 

This program began with discussions between Janet Fender, and 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: Coherent; Corning IncorporatedGoogle LLCMeta Platforms, Inc.Innolight Technology USA IncIntel CorporationNeoPhotonics CorpSource 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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