Interview with Shaimaa Abdalbaqi

“Be confident, you can do it!”

With the start of our series #WomeninScience, we will portrait the female scientific staff working on THRILL. They tell us about their roles in our project, what inspires them about their work and their experiences as a woman in science.

Meet our first guest, Shaimaa Abdalbaqi, Researcher at HZDR-Dresden.

Please, tell us more about your background.

My name is Shaimaa Abdalbaqi and I am a laser engineer at the Institute for Radiation Physics and Laser Particle Acceleration Division at HZDR. For THRILL project, I am part of Work Package 6 (“Optics for High Energy Lasers” and specifically working on Task 6.2: “Indium tin oxide (ITO) coatings”. Prior to my current position, I served as a postdoctoral researcher at Augsburg University, where I was honoured with a three-year of a postdoctoral position till the end of July 2022. My research was about organic electronics and nanotechnology. In 2006, I was awarded a scholarship from the Austrian Exchange Service (ÖAD) to complete my Ph.D. in organic optoelectronics.

My academic background includes a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Laser Physics and Semiconductors from the University of Technology in Baghdad (Iraq), where I also won Second Prize of Iraq in Physics in a nationwide competition that included students from all universities in Iraq during the same year. From 2001 to 2015, I was actively involved in teaching and supervision at Alnahrain University in Baghdad.

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

Technology is a rapidly evolving field, so what you learn today might become outdated tomorrow. Therefore, it’s essential to adopt a mindset of continuous learning. This involves staying updated with the latest trends, tools, and technologies in your field. By continuously learning, you not only keep your skills relevant but also open yourself up to new opportunities and growth.

“When you’re passionate about what you do, you’re more likely to persevere through obstacles, think creatively, and push the boundaries of what’s possible.”

Secondly, stay passionate! When you’re passionate about what you do, you’re more likely to persevere through obstacles, think creatively, and push the boundaries of what’s possible. Moreover, passion tends to be infectious – it inspires those around you and can lead to more meaningful collaborations and outcomes.

What’s currently your favourite tech topic and why?

My favourite tech topic is femtosecond lasers and optics. I find this field particularly intriguing due to its wide range of applications and its representation at the forefront of developing new aspects in technology.

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

One of the most significant challenges I’ve faced in my scientific career has been navigating the constantly evolving landscape of research and technology. The rapid pace of advancements in science demands continuous learning and adaptation. Staying at the forefront of my field requires not only keeping up with the latest developments but also contributing to them.

The pressure to publish ground-breaking research while balancing teaching responsibilities and administrative tasks can be demanding. Finding a harmonious balance between these responsibilities without compromising the quality of my work has been a constant challenge. This challenge highlights the need for effective time management and prioritization of tasks to ensure that both teaching commitments and research endeavours receive the attention they deserve.

“Each obstacle has provided an opportunity to develop resilience and problem-solving skills.”

Moreover, securing funding for research projects has proven to be another significant challenge. The competition for grants is fierce, and articulating the potential impact and importance of my research to funding agencies requires a unique set of skills. Building a compelling case for financial support while maintaining the integrity and significance of the research has been an ongoing challenge.

Additionally, working collaboratively across disciplines and with international partners has presented its own set of challenges. While interdisciplinary collaboration is essential for addressing complex scientific questions, it requires effective communication and a shared understanding of diverse methodologies and approaches. Overcoming language barriers, time zone differences, and varying research cultures has been a valuable learning experience but also a notable challenge.

Despite these challenges, they have contributed to my personal and professional growth. Each obstacle has provided an opportunity to develop resilience, problem-solving skills, and a deeper understanding of the collaborative and dynamic nature of scientific research. While the journey in science is undoubtedly challenging, the pursuit of knowledge and the potential for meaningful contributions to the scientific community make it a fulfilling and worthwhile endeavour.

Your advice to women and girls in science?

Be confident, you can do it!

Thank you for the interview, Shaimaa!

Subscribe to our newsletter and follow us on LinkedIn to learn more about our work at THRILL, and stay updated on our advances!

Subscribe to our newsletter

For regular updates on THRILL, sign up for our newsletter.