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Judith Dawes
Macquarie University, Australia

Awards & Distinctions


Judith Dawes is a Professor of Physics and Director of MQ Photonics Research Centre at Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia. Dawes graduated from the University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia, (B.Sc.(Hons) and Ph.D.).  During her Ph.D. she was awarded a Rotary International Fellowship to spend a year at the University of Rochester, NY, USA. After postdoctoral positions at the University of Toronto, Canada, and Macquarie University, she was appointed to a faculty position at Macquarie. Dawes served as Head of the Department of Physics and Astronomy, Macquarie University (2013–15) and is a member of the Academic Senate of the University.

Dawes is a Fellow of OSA and SPIE. Her contributions to the Optics community include service as an Associate Editor for Optica (since 2018), Joint Editor of the Australian Optical Society News (1994−1996), and an Editorial Board Member for Optics and Photonics News (2010−2012). Dawes also served on the C.E.K. Mees Medal Committee as a member (2019-2020) and as Chair (2020-2021). She has served on numerous conference organising committees, including Frontiers in Optics, CLEO PacRim and CLEO.

Dawes is the Honorary Treasurer for Science and Technology Australia, the peak representative body for approximately 85,000 scientists and technologists in Australia. As former President (2010–12) and member of the Council (2008–14) of the Australian Optical Society (AOS, now the Australian & New Zealand Optical Society), she lobbied on national issues and supported the local optics community with the AOS News, a national lecture series for Laserfest, AOS conferences and student conferences.

With interests in lasers and laser applications in medicine, Dawes’ current research focusses on the collective interactions of light at the nanoscale, applying nanophotonics to imaging and sensing. Her research achievements include the crystal growth, optical characterisation, and laser operation of a new laser crystal, Yb:YAB, which emits tunable, self-frequency-doubled, infrared and green light; and the invention of a laser-cured protein solder for laser microsurgery to repair severed nerves and blood vessels.

Dawes has mentored and supervised over 40 PhD, Masters, and 4th year research students and postdoctoral fellows, who have made successful careers in universities, government laboratories, technology start-ups and larger industries, school teaching, astronomy, patent law and clinical medicine in Australia and internationally.

Personal Statement

Light is central to our lives. We are part of a worldwide community of scientists and engineers who do amazing things with light. Light underpins many important technologies and industry sectors—optics and photonics literally connect us to the world.

The COVID-19 pandemic has left its mark on many aspects of our lives. We have become accustomed to online meetings and to virtual modes of connecting. Despite the difficulties, online conferences enable many more people from around the world to participate and to learn, overcoming hurdles due to child care, visas and travel costs. Different models for online conferences are emerging, and I would like to work with OSA staff to identify the most effective ways of holding blended conferences. I am also keen to improve the engagement of students and early-career professionals with the society and with their peers and colleagues around the world. Online mentoring might be one way to help connect people across our global community.

OSA has a proud publishing tradition, but there is always scope to improve—for example, in considering how to make our research accessible to a wider audience. The challenge lies in ensuring that open-access publication is affordable, financially sustainable and of high quality.

In my teaching and outreach activities I aim to promote the understanding of science in the community, so that we as citizens can all make informed choices in our lives. I have spoken about my research and my career to many school students, and my group developed a computer game in which students simulate a virtual telecommunications network. I am keen to support outreach efforts, for example through the OSA Foundation and OSA Student Chapters, to excite young peoples’ interest in science.

We have all seen the power of scientists working with other sectors of society in addressing a global pandemic. My experience with Science and Technology Australia has also shown the importance of science advocacy in policy-making. I would like to encourage the sharing of experiences (and success stories) of science advocacy around the world through OSA’s global network.

I hope for a future in which everyone has the chance to pursue the education and the career that they dream of. I am lucky to have had wonderful role models in my science-interested parents. I believe that programs in support of equity and diversity matter immensely: “If you can’t see it, then you can’t be it.”

I am honored to be nominated as a candidate for the OSA Board.