Name: Naznin Akter
What degree are you working on? I am a doctoral candidate in the College of Engineering and Computing’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE), from which I received a master’s degree in electrical engineering last year. I previously earned a bachelor’s as well as a master’s from the University of Dhaka in Bangladesh.
What is your volunteer position? I am working as a student-editor at the IEEE Photonics Society, where I am responsible for editing the society’s bimonthly online newsletter. My primary responsibility is to interview the society’s board of governors for a two-to-three-page article. I wrIte about peers in leadership positions, innovative research, photonics lab activities across the globe, student and researcher success, photonics chapters activities, awards, etc.I also help newsletter staff with other editorial duties.
How did you get the position? I received several travel awards from the society to attend IEEE conferences and that seeded a sense of responsibility in me. I decided that I needed to pay it forward. I volunteered at a luncheon activity and a conference, and eventually I interviewed with the society’s president. I truly enjoy my role as student-editor and am grateful to be writing for a prestigious professional newsletter.
What advice do you have for those exploring elite volunteer positions or internships? Get involved! Professional societies are designed to guide and promote students, young researchers and professors. They help them network with peers. Be an active member of your respective research-based society, and always be enthusiastic and prepared. You never know when the right opportunity will come knocking at your door.
How does this position connect back to your coursework? I am writing about topics that are relevant to my field. It has been wonderful connecting with so many talented researchers across the world and learning about innovations in the photonics field. The experience has inspired me to give greater thought to what I wish my doctoral research to achieve and those other areas I also wish to focus on.
What has been the highlight of your work? The coolest thing has been connecting and interviewing my amazing industry peers. It has also been wonderful to embark on a journey that has taught me so much from others. I hear about their successes and the mistakes and hardships they encountered while pursuing their doctoral degrees. I get to tell their stories and inspire others. Sharing knowledge is one way to empower others.
What has been the most valuable aspect of your experience? When I came to America to embark on my doctoral studies, I barely knew anyone within my research field. As a student-editor of a highly prestigious photonics-based newsletter, I have been able to network so much more and meet similar-minded researchers—I work in the INSYST Integrated Nanosystems Research Laboratory—and learn about their activities. It was this that ultimately helped me decide what I wish to dedicate my career to and how I hope to positively impact society. My volunteer work has truly broadened my horizons on many levels.
What have you learned about yourself? I learned that I am intensely passionate about giving back to society and paying it forward. I value creating a positive impact on society. I learned that even the little contributions matter when working to make a significant impact on society. Something as simple as sharing knowledge with others is important and can inspire greater contributions.
How has the position increased your professional confidence? The experience has helped me hone professional work habits. It has given me a greater sense of responsibility toward my field, while helping to better acquaint me with how things work outside of academia.
How has it help you prove yourself in the "real-world"? As doctoral candidate, I am immersed in my research, hardly getting any time for myself or the world around me. All doctoral candidates experience this. It is a tough and rewarding journey. My volunteer work makes me feel like I am giving back even while dedicating much of my life right now to my studies. I feel like it also allows me to enrich my research career. When you genuinely make it a point to always give back, it is no longer about proving yourself to the world. You become a greater part of society, the world that you are consistently contributing to.