Leading the way for women in the optics field - Color Science PhD student Jennifer Kruschwitz awarded Digital Rochester’s 2012 Technology Woman of the Year
Leading the way for women in the optics field
Written by Anne Schuhle
8:30 PM, Apr. 26, 2012 |
President and CEO of Entre Computer Services Andre Godfrey presents the 2012's Digital Rochester Technology Woman of the Year award to Jennifer Kruschwitz during the 13th annual awards celebration held on Thursday morning, April 26, at Locust Hill Country Club in Pittsford. / KATE MELTON
2012's Digital Rochester Technology Woman of the Year recipient Jennifer Kruschwitz accepts the award during the 13th annual awards celebration, held on Thursday morning, April 26, at Locust Hill Country Club in Pittsford. / KATE MELTON
Jennifer Kruschwitz fought back tears to explain what it meant to be named Digital Rochester’s 2012 Technology Woman of the Year. “It’s validating,” she said, after posing for an array of photos with the 10 other nominees at Locust Hill Country Club, where about 200 people attended Thursday’s award breakfast. “I think everybody needs that feeling that what they do is important and matters to other people.” What she does ranges from designing optical interference coating for her own business, J.K. Consulting, to working as an adjunct assistant professor at the University of Rochester to introducing East High School students to optics by helping organize the “Summer Sizzler” program. Of the three, the first sounds the most formidable, but Kruschwitz explained that the coating, which reduces reflection, is “kind of like frosting on the cake. It enables a lens system, camera system or lighting system to use more light.” The Brighton resident is the only woman in the country who consults in this field. She has also written numerous journal and magazine articles and holds two patents, with two pending. But optics wasn’t her initial career choice. A Westwood, Mass., native, she was enrolled in the University of Rochester’s pre-med program when she realized she couldn’t stand the sight of blood. She talked to the dean of the optics department to see if that was a good fit for her math and science skills. What sold her on the field was that “the woman was one of the most fun-loving, exciting women I knew, so I figured if she loved optics I would, too.”
That led to bachelor’s and master’s degrees in optics, and Kruschwitz, who turns 45 Friday, has just started work on a doctorate in color science at Rochester Institute of Technology. She hopes to become a full-time college professor.
Amy Carey, director of Women in Technology Programs for Digital Rochester, said Kruschwitz “truly embodies all of the qualities and characteristics we look for.”
The recipient is selected based on sustained contributions to the field; contributions that advance the status, opportunities and employment for women in technology; and community service.
Optics is a male-dominated field, so Kruschwitz said she gets excited when she attends an optics event and at least 15 percent of the participants are women. That hasn’t always been true.
“At my first job in Massachusetts, I was working for a government contractor, and the head foreman on the maintenance floor wouldn’t call me by my name. He called me ‘little girl.’” Kruschwitz sought her supervisor’s advice, and he gave her a project to work on with the foreman. It was something that several others had tried and failed.
“I solved it in a day. Then I took the recipe for my design to the foreman, and he said, ‘That won’t work. It’s crazy.’ But I said ‘Humor me. If it doesn’t work, you can say I told you so.’ Well, lo and behold, it worked, and he never called me ‘little girl’ again.”
Schuhle is a freelance writer from Geneva.
Last Modified: 1:43pm 27 Apr 12