Distinguished Zakya Kafafi

Minorities and Women in OSA

Meet this female fellow

Zakya H. Kafafi

Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Lehigh University, Bethlehem, PA.
OSA Member since: 1988
OSA Fellow since: 2007

Professional/personal highlights:

Zakya H. Kafafi  is an Adjunct Professor at the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering of Lehigh University in Bethlehem, PA. She was previously a visiting scholar/professor at the University of Pennsylvania and Northwestern University, on sabbatical leave from the National Science Foundation (NSF). During the five years she spent at NSF, she held the position of the Director of the Division of Materials Research for three years.  Dr. Kafafi spent 20 years at the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) where she developed the area of research in organic photonics and electronics, and later on established and was the Head of the Organic Optoelectronics Section.

Dr. Kafafi published >240 manuscripts, review articles, book chapters, and conference proceedings as well as several US patents. She received the NRL Edison Patent Award for developing a simple and cost-effective method of patterning electrically conductive polymers and the R&D Magazine IR 100 Award for the invention of "cryolink" a cryogenic link that can move vertically and rotate under high vacuum at very low temperatures. She is the recipient of the NRL Commanding Officer’s Award for Achievements in the Field of Equal Employment Opportunity and the creation of a mentor program for scientists and engineers.

Dr. Kafafi is the Founding Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Photonics for Energy and is the Inaugural Deputy Editor of Science Advances. She serves on the International Advisory Board of the IEEE Photonics Journal, and the Conferences on "Spins in Organics" (SPINOS). She chairs the annual SPIE Symposium on Organic Photonics + Electronics, and the Conference on Organic Photovoltaics.

Dr. Kafafi is a member of the American Chemical Society and Sigma Xi. She is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Materials Research Society, the Optical Society of America, and SPIE, the International Society for Optics and Photonics.

Zakya Kafafi  was recently selected to serve as the Inaugural Deputy Editor for Chemical, Physical, Materials Sciences, Engineering of Science Advances, the newly launched online, open access journal by Science.

What is your advice for balancing one's professional and personal life?

I feel that there is so much pressure to achieve and be perfect in life, but we have to realize that we can't do it all and survive on our own. My advice to you is to set your priorities, create a network of those who can help out, choose a supporting partner and find good and reliable childcare when you have kids. Slow down and enjoy those special moments in your life with your friends and family. It does not always have to be a special occasion, like a wedding or Christmas, for which you plan and prepare. Be a bit spontaneous and cherish those moments for no particular reason.

I have an extremely busy schedule at work, but I always try to spend time with my family and friends. I enjoy reading books, scuba diving, tennis, wine tasting, and hiking in local parks. I cook and host parties at my home. I really enjoy strolling in the Longwood Gardens and Great Falls National Park, for example, and watching majestic views of different flowers and trees and listening to the dazzling music of nightingales and the waterfalls. When you are happy and fulfilled, you can accomplish much more! Enjoy your life and don't lose your sense of self-identity.

Do you have suggestions for how female scientists support each other's career and development?

Be part of a professional network; seek a good mentor.

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