Associate Professor Cather Simpson
The University of Auckland, New Zealand
Associate Professor Cather Simpson joined the University of Auckland’s Physics and Chemistry departments in 2007 to continue advanced research in photonics. She is founding director of the Photon Factory, a high-tech laser and microfabrication facility that provides advanced laser technology to all NZ researchers, from university, CRI and industry scientists to school science fair students. Her research explores how molecules and materials convert the energy carried by light into more useful forms of energy. The applications of this research are diverse and far-reaching – from understanding fundamental light-driven processes to better technology for sorting sperm by sex for the agriculture sector. Cather’s recent awards include a NZ National Teaching Excellence Award and the 2016 Kiwinet Baldwins Researcher Entrepreneur and the BNZ Supreme Awards. Her company, Engender Technologies, won the 2016 Silicon Valley Forum medal for Agtech, and she was recently named a NZ Primary Industries Champion by the Ministry of Primary Industries.
Right now, we are on the cusp of the age of photonics – the creation, control and use of light. Many of our everyday technologies rely on the ability of light to carry information and energy. Light is a marvelous substance. From the cell phone and the internet to our most modern sensors and diagnostic devices, our new ability to use light is transforming the way we achieve our dreams. The Photon Factory is a New Zealand hub of powerful light-based innovation. What do cutting-edge laser micromachining, efficient sperm sorting by sex and improving the productivity and health of dairy cattle have in common? Photonics. They are the three examples I will explore to illustrate how the Photon Factory’s clever physics, chemistry and engineering students and staff are finding new ways to harness and exploit light.