Leda Sox Honored by SPIE as a Leading ‘Woman in Optics’
SPIE is the international society for optics and photonics. SPIE partners with researchers, educators, and industry to advance light-based research and technologies for the betterment of the human condition. The Bellingham, Washington-based organization serves a global constituency of more than 258,000 people from 184 countries. As such, SPIE could be considered one of—if not THE—foremost authority on “vision.” Aside from its industry leadership in optics, SPIE strives to be a leader in another type of “vision”: emphasize the role we all play in furthering diversity, equity, and inclusion in STEM.
A visionary GTRI researcher is among the select few chosen by SPIE to exemplify this message. Leda Sox, Ph.D., is one of a select few researchers from around the world selected by SPIE for inclusion in its “2024 Women in Optics Notebook.”
Now in its 20th year of publication, the SPIE Women in Optics Notebook is meant to serve as an inspiration and resource for those considering careers in optics, photonics, and other STEM fields. It does so by, as stated in its introduction, having “engineers, researchers, and industry leaders share personal tales of finding joy and success in their work, addressing self-doubt, requesting assistance when needed, and learning from failure along the way.”
Leda is a Senior Research Scientist and interim Associate Chief of the Opto-Electrical Branch in the Electro-Optical Systems Laboratory (EOSL). Leda is a leading expert in atmospheric phenomenology and remote sensing. Her primary expertise is various types of LIDAR (e.g., Rayleigh scatter, elastic backscatter, sodium). However, Leda constantly “looks ahead” to emerging technologies in the field. Leda has frequently served as principal investigator on sponsored projects in the Electro-Optical Systems Innovation Division.
“In my applied-research role, I not only study the atmosphere to better our understanding of this complex system, but also to use that knowledge to address challenges in national security and to better the human condition.”
Leda’s indefatigable drive to succeed in this highly technical field—despite academic (“I was terrified to take my first physics class in high school.”) and professional challenges and setbacks—can serve as an example to women students and young professionals in optics or any technical field.
“While a career in physics is challenging on many levels, the biggest obstacle in my career has been myself, from my teenage self deciding I had to be Einstein to succeed at physics, to my current self, still questioning whether I’m the right person for the job,” Leda says in the Women in Optics Notebook profile. “Despite the support of family and many colleagues, gaps in my coursework or the fact that I am often the only woman in the meeting room lead me to a lot of self-doubt [but]Your differences make it all the more important for you to be in that meeting room.”
Leda’s drive and determination have led her to not only be in meeting rooms; often, she is the person leading the meeting.
Says Leda, “What I am realizing now, and hope I can pass on to young women starting their own STEM careers, is that you can always learn what you don’t know, and your differences are valuable strengths that you bring to the table.”
Congratulations to Leda for being included in the SPIE 2024 Women in Optics Notebook, and thanks to Leda for being a visionary leader for GTRI—and women in STEM fields everywhere--who is not afraid to be different and strong.
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