Arthur H. Guenther Congressional Fellowship
The Optical Society/SPIE
Dr. Christina Willis is a scientist specialized in high-power solid state and fiber laser systems. She holds a bachelor's degree in physics from Wellesley College (2006), and Master’s and Doctoral degrees in optics from CREOL at the University of Central Florida (2009, 2013). As an undergraduate, Willis worked as an intern at National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in Gaithersburg, MD, and subsequently spent the year following graduation at the National Metrological Institute of Japan, working with iodine-stabilized helium neon lasers for length standard applications.
Upon returning from Japan, Willis began her graduate studies at CREOL. She received a National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate Fellowship (2007-2010), and was a three time recipient of the Graduate Directed Energy Scholarship from the Directed Energy Professional Society (2010, 2011, 2012). Her research focused on high power fiber and thin-disk laser systems operating at 1 and 2 µm, including thulium fiber, Yb:YAG thin disk, and ytterbium fiber laser systems. The subject of her dissertation work was a high energy, fiber-seeded, thin disk regenerative amplifier with custom temporal pulse shaping of pulses in the 10 ns range, for optimization of pulse-matter interaction.
After her defense, she began work at Vision Engineering Solutions in Orlando, FL, a startup specializing in laser tracking and imaging. In 2014 she moved to the Washington DC area to work at Fibertek, Inc. in Herndon, VA, where she worked on solid state laser development for remote sensing applications.
Outreach, policy, and science communication are a passion for her. She first began volunteering as a graduate student, including serving on SPIE’s Engineering Science and Technology Policy (ESTeP) Committee and participating in five Congressional Visits Days through the National Photonics Initiative, both as a constituent and as a team lead. Willis’s areas of policy interest include environmental and energy issues, STEM diversity, and STEM education. As a fellow, she plans to embrace the opportunity to leverage her communication skills and problem solving abilities in service of the public, while learning more about policymaking and potential policy career paths.