February 11 celebrates the International Day of Women and Girls in Science. Since 2016, this day, which was decided by the General Assembly of the United Nations, honors the role of women in science and technology. Scientist Dr. Barbara Leszczynska from IFW Dresden answers questions from the Equality Office on the occasion of this date.
Ms. Leszczynska, what scientific issue are you working on?
My research area is the development of surface acoustic wave (SAW) components, in particular sensors for harsh environmental conditions. I am also working on battery-free, wirelessly readable sensor technology for new fields of application.
What is so exciting about your work?
The technology seems to be simple: create a wave that propagates on the substrate surface. However, exciting development is necessary to enable the use of SAW elements for measurements, e.g. under extreme temperatures, as gas-, pressure- or strain sensors. The variety makes this work so unique.
What made you decide to pursue an academic career?
My curiosity. I always asked a lot of questions and got far too few answers.
Were there any obstacles and if so, how did you overcome them?
The biggest obstacle was the beginning itself. Electrical engineering is exciting, but still seen as a male field. What always helped me were the other people I met along the way.
Have you had role models or mentors in your professional career? How could you benefit from them?
I started my academic career thanks to my master thesis supervisor. She has always encouraged and supported me. I would like to have the serenity that my group leader had from university. His "take it easy" will always accompany me.
Have you had conflicts or moments of doubt regarding the compatibility of work and family?
The hardest part was finding the time and energy to write my PhD thesis. I almost gave up then. Some children just sleep very, very little. It's also not easy when you miss a lot because of illness. If you don't have grandparents to help, the 10 sick days per parent are gone very quickly and the first years of kindergarten are just as they are.
What advice would you give students or doctoral candidates for planning their academic career?
Look for support. A real mentor means a lot. Don't be afraid to ask questions. It is sometimes very difficult for us to ask for help, but it is much harder to do everything alone. Think about what is important to you right from the start and check again and again whether this is the right way.
To what extent the corona pandemic has influenced your work as a scientist?
It hasn't influenced my work, but it has influenced my life a lot. My home office day started at 4 a.m., because that was the only way to combine family life and work.
Dr. Barbara Leszczynska studied electronics of microsystems and photonics at TU Wroclaw and received her PhD in electrical engineering and information technology at TU Dresden. She has been working as a postdoc and project leader at IFW Dresden in the Institute of Complex Materials since 2019. The scientist has a seven-year-old daughter. Besides her work, she enjoys traveling and reading old detective stories.
The interview was conducted by the Equal Opportunity Officer at IFW.
Dr. Barbara Leszczynska