Anna Zachariou, 24 – FUNDED

“Women in STEAM are often described as a minority and, although I am honored to be part of this minority, I hope that I can be part of a next generation of women scientists that manage to change ‘minority’ to ‘majority’!” says Anna Zachariou.

She already has her Bachelor’s of Science degree in Physics from the Florida Institute of Technology, so now she’s focused on a dual-track Master’s degree program in both Optics & Photonics and Materials Science & Engineering at the University of Central Florida. This Paliwal Club of 100 STEAM Scholar is also already thinking about her Ph.D.!

What is your professional dream?

I am currently in the process of obtaining my master’s degree in Optics and Photonics at the University of Central Florida. Since my research — which aims to create three-dimensional refractive index profiles in novel infrared chalcogenide glasses for their use in aberration-free optical imaging platforms — spans both the fields of Optics & Optical Materials Science, I have been extremely interested in pursuing a master’s degree in Materials Science and Engineering, as well.

I have recently applied at UCF’s College of Engineering and Computer Science for this degree, which I will be pursuing during the 2023-2024 academic year. In turn, I plan to obtain a Ph.D. degree in one of the fields before I decide to either continue in academia (postdoctoral or research scientist positions) or move on to work in the industry.

What does being in the Paliwal Club of 100 mean to you? 

For every successful woman in STEAM, there are hundreds of women who either don’t believe they can succeed in such fields or are not even given the opportunity to try. Therefore, I like to think that, with every milestone I achieve in my academic endeavors, I am one step closer to one day serving as inspiration to another woman or little girl to pursue a career in STEAM against all odds. Becoming a member of the Paliwal Club of 100 is such a milestone and I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity.

Women are underrepresented in the S.T.E.A.M. (science, tech, arts or math) fields and music industry. How can we change this? 

We have to keep working hard and succeeding, despite the odds. And we have to try to support women in STEAM through grants and awards like the Paliwal Club!

What are some of the challenges you have faced along the way?

I think that the biggest challenge is believing that success is possible in STEAM fields and staying motivated and focused on your goals. In fact, soon after my focus shifted toward the sciences back in middle school, I slowly started noticing the decrease in female classmates which continued to further decrease in undergraduate and graduate school.

How will this grant from the 1,000 Dreams Fund help you reach your goals?

As an aspiring researcher in the field of optics and materials science, attending conferences such SPIE and GOMD will be an opportunity for me to meet scientists in similar fields, establish new connections for potential future collaborations, see numerous presentations of ongoing research projects, and present my own research.