Interview with Lisa Kobayashi

“Going into tech is a decision that’s hard to regret”

We are thrilled to announce the start of our new series #WomeninScience! In this editorial, we will hear from the female scientific staff working on fastMOT, telling us about their roles in our project and their experiences of finding their career in science.

Meet our first guest, Lisa Kobayashi, postdoc at ICFO – The Institute of Photonic Sciences.

Please tell us about yourself. What are you working on in fastMOT?

Hi, I’m Lisa, I’m a postdoc at ICFO. I work in the field of biomedical optics, i.e. development of optical techniques that can be applied in the medical field. In particular, I have been working within the field of diffuse optics. Diffuse optical techniques are non-invasive methods for measuring blood flow, oxygen saturation, etc. in deep tissue including the brain.

In fastMOT, I will be studying diffuse optical signals using state-of-the-art detectors that are being developed within the framework of the project.

How did you find your path after school?

I really enjoyed my physics lessons in high school and I also like challenges, so when I had to decide what to study at university, I thought doing a degree in Physics would be a nice challenge for myself. I ended up really enjoying my degree, so I saw no reason to change what I was doing and ended up doing a masters and PhD as well. Towards the end of my undergraduate degree, I decided I wanted to specialize in biomedical optics since I enjoyed the physics of optics but also wanted to study something with a big real-world impact like medicine.

“I enjoyed the physics of optics but also wanted to study something with a big real-world impact like medicine.”

What would you recommend young talents who want to step into tech?

Go for it! I think it’s a decision that’s hard to regret since you will learn lots of skills that can be applied in many different industries. 

What has been your most important learning?

That’s a difficult question, but the most important thing I’ve learned is that you are never done learning. Every project or job comes with new challenges, so you have to be ready to learn at all times. 

“The most important thing I’ve learned is that you are never done learning.”

What has been your biggest challenge of working in science so far?

It is very rare for things to go right on the first try! Whether it’s not getting the right experimental conditions, a bug in your analysis scripts, or an error in your equations, science is a precise art. But when you finally get things right, it is so satisfying!

What would be your advice to women and girls in science?

I think even though there is an increase in awareness regarding gender equality in the workplace, particularly in science and tech, we are still far from equality. As a woman, I have experienced micro-aggressions, and these are not easy to deal with since it’s not easy to report them.  However, it is a serious problem since they can take their toll over time. I think that until society becomes truly equal, women and girls in science should always remember that we are not in any way less capable than men!

“We are still far from equality.”

Who’s your favorite female scientist and why?

I’m lucky to share my workplace with a lot of female colleagues who are creative, hard-working and motivated, and that is very motivational for me.  I also look up to two professors from my master’s program, Katarina Svanberg and Anne L’Huillier. They have both had incredibly successful careers and are brilliant scientists, but most importantly, in person both are very humble and down-to-earth, I really admire that. 

Thank you for the interview, Lisa!


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