By Matt Gergyek
Ye’s research focuses on photonics, the study of light (photos) generation, detection and manipulation. Specifically, she studies silicon photonics, where light carries information using a silicon platform.
“In electrical communication, we use digital zeroes and digital ones to encode information,” Ye says, “but with photonics, zeroes and ones are replaced with a light flicking off and on. Compared to electronics, photonics offers the possibility to transmit information faster and more efficiently.”
Exploring the Intersection of Photonics, Biology and Chemistry
Ye studies how silicon photonic devices can be used for telecommunication and data communication. She also explores the intersection of photonics, biology and chemistry to build sensors and medical diagnostic tools.
As a result of her research, Ye received two landmark awards this year, including the 2018 Engineering Medal for Research and Development from Professional Engineers Ontario (PEO). The award recognizes professional engineers who have improved quality of life through the application of their engineering skills.
She also received the Engineering Excellence Award from the PEO’s Ottawa chapter in February, awarded to a local engineer who has developed an “innovative application of engineering knowledge and principles,” according to the organization’s website.
Ye knows from firsthand experience the difficulty that comes with being a woman in engineering. She’s used to being one of the very few women in technical meetings, workshops and at conferences. “I’ve been in engineering for so many years and there are still very few women in the field … we need to change this,” she says.
Less than 20 per cent of newly licensed engineers in 2016 were women, according to a report released by Engineers Canada last year. At post-secondary institutions, women make up just a quarter of engineering students in the country, according to the same report.
Finding the Disconnect
When Ye began thinking about how to encourage more women to pursue careers in engineering, she realized the disconnect starts in high school.
“When you ask female high school students interested in science what they want to do, they want to become doctors, chemists … it’s never engineering,” she says. “There are a lot of girls who are exceptional in math and physics … but engineering is so distant from them—it just isn’t presented to them.”
To help girls find their potential in becoming engineers, Ye participates and leads outreach programs to high school students and young women across Ottawa and the globe. Last month, she was awarded the Women in Engineering Inspiring Member of the Year Award by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). She was honoured for her outstanding contributions to IEEE WIE and the engineering community in general, through her dedication and involvement in projects or activities.
“The international award is such a huge honour for me, especially with the topic of women in engineering being so close to my heart” she says. “We need to provide the platform for girls to have access to this type of career.”
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