Yi-Hsin LinNational Yang Ming Chiao Tung University, Taiwan
For pioneering contributions to electrically tunable liquid crystal lenses that led to wide-ranging applications.
Yi-Hsin Lin grew up in Taiwan in a more traditional time, when the expectation for women was to get married and have a family. While many women felt stifled by this situation, Yi-Hsin still felt “freedom to explore herself.” She remembers playing with pulleys at elementary school and became fascinated with physics, which she majored in at the National Tsing Hua University in Taiwan. While there, she fell in love with optics when she first set up a Mach-Zehnder interferometer. She remembers, “It was hard to describe in words how I was excited, but it was amazing to me how I could obtain invisible optical phases from light-intensity-based patterns.” Later, she completed her PhD at the University of Central Florida in optical sciences, and is now a professor in the Department of Photonics at National Yang Ming Chiao Tung University in Taiwan.
Today, the focus of her work is liquid crystal (LC) active optics, and her dream is to develop electrically tunable LC spectacles to improve human vision. Initially, her idea was met with criticism and doubt from reviewers and colleagues. She received scathing comments on her papers, but she never gave up: “Because it is a challenge and is difficult, it is worth spending time to find a solution.” To achieve her goals, she started with the fundamentals in optics and liquid crystal physics, and eventually managed to invent and demonstrate a multi-layered structure LC lens that worked. To commercialize her invention, she launched a startup, Liqxtal Tech Inc. in 2011. Now working the field for over 20 years, she continues to develop better LC lenses. She says, “I expect to realize electrically tunable LC spectacles for human use based on my design soon.”
Her career has been defined by defying the expectations of others. As a young child, she wanted to be a President in Taiwan when she grew up, but the adults in her life told her that those jobs were only for men. Yi-Hsin disagreed, and she pursued leadership training through her OSA Student Chapter in her PhD work, and as a result, served as Vice President or President of the SPIE, IEEE LEOS, and OSA student chapters. As president of her OSA chapter, she and Prof. Ray-Hua Horng organized the first “Women in Optics in Taiwan” event in 2019, which provided a platform for female professionals and students to network, exchange ideas, and support each other. Now a regular event funded by the Ministry of Science and Technology in Taiwan, women have the opportunity to challenge expectations just as Yi-Hsin did. She says, “The leadership training in OSA student chapters helped me a lot…I am glad I can keep spreading my influence to other women in Taiwan.”
Yi-Hsin advises young scientists that “passion always provides a great driving force that helps people through failure and lack of direction.” Her own passion kept her inspired and allowed her to “break the code and expectations set by her family and society.” Along the way, she had the support of two wonderful mentors, Professor Shu-Hsia Wang and Professor Shin-Tson Wu. Shu-Hsia encouraged Yi-Hsin to dream bigger, and as a female professor herself was particularly inspirational. At CREOL, Shin-Tson Wu taught Yi-Hsin about teamwork and collaboration, in addition to sharing his personal story and advice. Having supportive mentors was essential to her success, and she strives to embody their example for her students today. In closing, Yi-Hsin offers a quote from Aristotle, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” She hopes that these words will inspire others as they have inspired her.
Photo Credit: Yi-Hsin Lin