Growing Up in Academia
Monday 18.10.2021 17:00 — 18:30
Online Event

Growing Up in Academia with Joyce Poon

Joyce Poon

Joyce Poon today ...

Joyce Poon

... and back in 2000 (botom left), in her second year as an undergrad student.

What is it to be a scientist? How does one become a scientist? Growing Up in Academia is a conversation series with academics at different levels of their career focusing on the sometimes short, sometimes long and winding roads behind the “official CV”.

Each event features an open conversation (interview) with a different faculty member, representing the broad spectrum of academic life. We will cover topics such as dealing with expectations (your own and others’), the role of luck/coincidence in scientific discovery, impostor syndrome, procrastination, and conflicts with advisors. Join us for a conversation about the human factors that universally inform the profession, but that too often remain unspoken. These events will be hosted and presented by Lucia Melloni (Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics). 

On Monday, October 18, 2021, Growing Up in Academia features Joyce Poon, Director at the Max Planck Institute for Microstructure Physics and Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Toronto. 

 


The online application for this event is zoom. You can register for the event by using this link.


 

Official Biography

Dr. Joyce Poon is Managing Director of the Max Planck Institute of Microstructure Physics, Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Toronto, and Honorary Professor in the Faculty of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at the Technical University of Berlin. She currently serves as Director-at-Large of the Optical Society. She and her team specialize in integrated photonics on silicon. 

Prof. Poon obtained the Ph.D. and M.S. in Electrical Engineering from Caltech in 2007 and 2003 respectively, and the B.A.Sc. in Engineering Science (physics option) from the University of Toronto in 2002. Honors she has received include a Canada Research Chair (2012–2019), ECE Department Teaching Award (2017), OFC Top-Scored Paper (2017), the McCharles Prize for Early Research Career Distinction (2013), MIT TR35 (2012), and the IBM Faculty Award (2010, 2011). She is a Fellow of the Optical Society.

Unofficial Biography

Joyce Poon never expected to be where she is today. She was born in Hong Kong, grew up in Toronto, and initially wished to become a medical doctor. Her plans to that end were derailed during her undergraduate studies in Engineering Science at the University of Toronto. In the summer after her second year working in a laser lab, she was so fascinated by the process of building a femtosecond laser that she switched into the physics specialization. A device course and her undergraduate thesis opened her mind to integrated photonics, a field she is as passionate as ever about today. Again and again this field opens her eyes to how theory, models, and experiment converge to create impactful technologies that can transform society. 

Having noticed that people working in photonics often had Ph.D. degrees, and since the Internet bubble that burst in 2001–2002 left all high-tech job prospects tenuous, Poon continued into graduate studies at the California Institute of Technology. A couple of years after she started, she seriously considered quitting, but eventually she developed the insights to overcome her frustrations and in 2007 she earned her Ph.D. Her sojourn at Caltech taught her about being precise in thought and expression, as well as about the importance of integrity.

Fortuitously, Poon was offered a faculty position at the University of Toronto before the global financial crisis and Great Recession hit. Her academic environment in Toronto is friendly, open, and supportive – most colleagues don’t hesitate to help. Poon is grateful for the support she receives from the university, her many colleagues and collaborators, and from her team members. At Toronto, she has built a research program centred on silicon integrated photonics for telecom applications. 

A few years ago, Poon miraculously survived the appointment process to become Director of the Max Planck Institute of Microstructure Physics in Halle, a position she embarked on in 2018 – along with sporadic German lessons. She never thought she would qualify for such a position. At the MPI, she is currently building a department with the aim of inventing and developing integrated photonic technologies for brain-computer interfaces and future computing. 

But as complex as that may sound, she is convinced that learning German is harder than probing the brain with light.