Postdoc Chiara Trovatello Named 2024 Optica Ambassador

The award will support her mentorship and outreach activities to early-career optics scientists.

Ellen Neff
December 06, 2023

Chiara Trovatello, currently a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Global Fellow (PIONEER) working with mechanical engineer Jim Schuck at Columbia Engineering, has been named a 2024 Optica Ambassador. A lifetime title, Optica Ambassadors are recognized for their contributions to optics and photonics outreach and early career development.  

Trovatello has been committed to outreach and mentoring since she was a PhD student at Politecnico di Milano. In 2019, she was the founder of Optica’s first Student Chapter in Milan and served as Chapter President till 2021. Within the chapter, she organized several events, including seminars and webinars for scientific outreach, knowledge sharing and networking, and professional development. Beyond optics research, the chapter advocates for open science, equal opportunities, and equal representation in STEM. “These events weren’t just about our science, but what it means to be a scientist, especially as part of historically underrepresented categories,” Trovatello said. “We want to share opportunities and also strategies to navigate through common difficulties we encounter along the way.” She has continued to mentor chapter members since leaving for her postdoctoral position at Columbia in 2021.

As an Optica Ambassador, Trovatello looks forward to mentoring students, supporting early careers at a global scale, and advocating for equal representation in science. Her goal for her first year of service is to introduce a new discussion forum to Optica conferences geared toward helping fellow postdocs and early career researchers navigate the challenges of establishing their careers in research. “I’m grateful to Optica for giving us that stage," she said, "and for the innumerable professional development opportunities it has given me over the years,” which have included travel support to attend conferences, access to journals of the Optica Publishing Group, and prizes and research grants to support early careers.

Trovatello has also been honored for her research, which focuses on building ultra-compact platforms for nonlinear optics and quantum optics using layered materials. In 2022, she received the Bernard J. Couillaud prize from the Optica Foundation and Coherent for her contributions to the field of ultrafast optics with 2D materials. Earlier this fall, she was recognized with the 2023 Young Investigator Award by the Italian Scientists and Scholars in North America Foundation. As a member of Columbia’s Department of Energy EFRC on Programmable Quantum Materials, she received a Best Lighting Talk at a recent all-center meeting. 

She will be wrapping up her time at Columbia at the end of 2024 and returning to Europe with a unique crystal she’s been working on in Schuck’s lab. Within her Marie Curie Action PIONEER, Trovatello will spend her six-month secondment at the University of Vienna, followed by a year back at Politecnico di Milano.

“I have always deeply cared about our scientific community. Νow, I am at a stage in my career where I feel ready to actively serve and give back what the community has given me throughout the past years,” Trovatello said. “As an Optica ambassador, I can take my commitment to mentoring to the next level. I genuinely hope to make a difference for students and early career researchers, just as the Ambassadors did for me through their inspirational efforts at Optica events during conferences and in virtual spaces. I want to illustrate to the young optics community what Optica can do for them, and how it can make a difference, like it did for me.”