Light is the future

When it comes to photonics, Ana Gebejes finds it hard to hide her enthusiasm

– Light is all around us. I wanted to understand how it works and as my knowledge has grown, I have discovered what this understanding can do, sums up Dr Ana Gebejes, who came to Joensuu for photonics.

Gebejes, a Serbian national who received her PhD in Computer Science from the University of Eastern Finland in 2017, came to Joensuu via the US and Spain.

– I chose Joensuu because it had cutting-edge technology and big names in the field. I thought my studies would allow me to see these facilities. But I got to use it myself, Gebejes sighs, still impressed.

I chose Joensuu because it had cutting-edge technology and big names in the field.

– And in Joensuu, I was mentored by some of the best in the field. Here, there is a connection between people in photonics and everyone is interested in each other’s work. Professors, students, companies, and everyone else moves easily in the same circles, says Gebejes, describing the photonics community in Joensuu.

– Today, I also get to build this community at Photonics Finland. In November we will have another Photonics Month, says Gebejes, who works half as a researcher at the University of Eastern Finland’s Center for Photonics Sciences and half as a project manager at Photonics Finland.

Joensuu’s position in photonics has also attracted international players to the city. Gebejes is on the board of the European Optical Society, which has its headquarters in Joensuu. She is also vice president of European Optical Society Finnish Student Club. Gebejes has also founded the Women in Photonics network, where women in the field can share knowledge and experience.

A bright future

Physics-based photonics is a field of science and technology based on invisible and visible light. Its research and expertise are enabling a wide range of everyday applications, from telecommunications to laser surgery and from solar cells to virtual reality. Photonics is also closely linked to the ongoing artificial intelligence revolution.

– Artificial intelligence needs data to work, and photonics is creating ways to collect that data quickly and efficiently. Photonics is constantly evolving at a rapid pace, which is another reason why it is well suited to the curious. The further you go in your studies and the more knowledge you gain, the more you see opportunities to develop something new. Photonics enables so many innovations, says Gebejes with wide-eyed enthusiasm.

Photonics is constantly evolving at a rapid pace, which is another reason why it is well suited to the curious.

Valuing education

The teaching and research of photonics at the University of Eastern Finland is at the top of its field. A degree in photonics gives a person the skills to work in the field of photonics in research, product development, expertise, and management positions.

Photonics studies consist of a broad-based study of physics and mathematics at the bachelor’s level, complemented by courses that provide the skills needed in industry. In this way, students are better equipped to take their knowledge and ideas to the business world.

– The companies in the sector really value skills and education here, as they are essential to their competitiveness, says Gebejes.

Photonics is strictly based on the law of physics, but to the average person its achievements seem like minor miracles. And that experience of wonder has not entirely disappeared even for the highly educated scientist.

– I always say that light is faster than electricity, smiles Ana Gebejes, explaining why she is so convinced that light is the future.

This material was produced as part of the activities of the City of Joensuu Innovation Ecosystem Agreement (ERDF), co-funded by the European Union and the city of Joensuu.

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