Aleksandra Boskovic, the award-winning Corning scientist

Hispanic Engineer & Information Technology >> Features >> Aleksandra Boskovic, the award-winning Corning scientist

Aleksandra Boskovic, the award-winning Corning scientist

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POSTED ON Jun 23, 2017

Dr. Aleksandra Boskovic has five patents for products that help telecommunications systems around the world keep up with bandwidth growth.

She has invented an optical networking device for optical networks with increased transparency, a four-wave mixing reduction method in light wave transmission, and an optical communication system with a fiber link capable of transmitting optical signals with high optical launch power over long distances.

Her most recent invention is an optical communication system for use in communication networks.

“My inventions are related to bandwidth growth,” Dr. Boskovic explained. “There are different ways and methods we can improve  systems to increase the bandwidth, which is basically how much information we can put in them,” she said.

In her previous role as leader of Corning’s European Technology Center in France, the lab delivered improvements to Corning’s glass melting technology as well as new glass ceramic recipes.

Corning’s latest high-performance glass has been successfully incorporated into high-resolution smartphones and tablets that feature upward of 500 pixels per inch.

Since 2007 more than 4.5 billion devices have been designed with Corning® Gorilla® Glass, including the one you’re reading on now.

Aleksandra was born in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil.

Rio de Janeiro is known for its famous landmarks, such as the 98-foot-tall statue of Christ the Redeemer, with his arms stretching 92 feet wide at the peak of the 2,300-foot Corcovado Mountain.

The city of Rio is also known for its beautiful Copacabana and Ipanema beaches.

Young Aleksandra grew up in a small apartment in one of the high-rise tenements that dotted the Copacabana neighborhood. Her father worked as a technician for the local electricity company, and her mother was a stay-at-home mom. Both parents wanted their only child to have a stable job “in computer science,” she said.

“My passion was to be a scientist and do research, and I was good in the technical areas like math and physics. My parents wanted me to go to college so I could have a stable future and a steady job. In Rio, the biggest thing was tourism, so it was hard for my parents to imagine how one could make a living as a scientist,” she added.

“When my [parents] would ask me what I wanted for my birthday or Christmas, it was always a microscope, or a stethoscope, or a chemistry set. Those were the kinds of things that grabbed my attention.”

In 1985 Aleksandra started a degree in computer programming at the Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro. At the end of her first year, she told her parents, who were paying her way through college, that she had decided to change to physics. Although the university she attended was one of the best in Rio, the number of students enrolling each year for pure science was low compared to liberal arts, business, marketing, and engineering.

The switch from computer programming to physics added another year for the first-generation college student. But after completing her bachelor’s in physics in 1989, she won a scholarship and went on to earn a master’s degree in physics at the same university.

She studied detection of picosecond pulses and graduated in 1992 with a scholarship from the national telecommunications company, which had taken an interest in her work.

The following year, Aleksandra left her family in Brazil to pursue her dream. She joined the physics graduate program at Imperial College, London. Home to the greatest concentration of research of any major UK university, Imperial holds an award that recognizes advancing women’s careers in science, technology, engineering, math, and medicine in academia.

Aleksandra’s thesis focused on the generation of short pulses with fiber lasers and on optical non-linear effects in general. She joined Corning shortly afterward.

“Aleksandra is an excellent example of professional achievement for women in science and technology,” noted Dr. David L. Morse, executive vice president and chief technology officer.

“As one of our top leaders in research and development, she is setting the example for others to follow. She coaches and mentors employees inside and outside of her organization; with women employees in a variety of forums, she shares her career stories and how she overcame career obstacles. Aleksandra is a role model for many women and men,” he said.

Dr. Boskovic’s career began in physics, recalled Dr. Gary S. Calabrese, senior vice president for Corning Global Research.

“She was instrumental in establishing an important system of modeling tools to help design, test, and manufacture our products,” he added.

Aleksandra’s Secrets to Success

1. Maintain a professional network.

I met another Corning researcher at the Optical Networking and Communication Conference while doing my Ph.D. in England. She was also Brazilian, but we had never met before. A professor from Imperial College who happened to be at the conference introduced me to her. We all worked in the same field of optics. Although we shared a nationality, the initial connection was purely professional. I kept the contact as I finished my Ph.D., and through her, I found out about the job opening. I applied and eventually got hired.

2. Believe career and job changes can happen in one corporation.

I started as an entry-level scientist at Corning’s central research facility in Sullivan Park. I came straight out of my Ph.D. nineteen years ago and never changed companies. I know this is unusual, but my plan is to retire with Corning. Today my job consists of research in optics, surfaces, and integration technologies. The group has about 100 technical people, with a large fraction of them having Ph.D. degrees. My role is to make sure my organization is contributing to the bottom line through inventing the next wave of products and technologies for Corning. My job, and my organization’s, is to invent the future for Corning in our area of expertise.

3. Remember technical leadership goes beyond the technical.

I report to the senior vice president of Research for Corning, Dr. Calabrese. Even though my job is a leadership role, which includes management and supervision, I see my job as highly technical. I have learned that technical competencies will just take me so far. In order to truly excel, I need to go beyond the technical and excel at leadership skills as well.

  • You must have technical excellence. If you don’t, people will not listen to you or value your input.
  • Don’t let bureaucracy take over. Yes, there are processes that need to be followed, paperwork to file. Find a way to do what is needed as efficiently as possible; it should not take the lion’s share of your time.
  • Develop your leadership skills.
  • Invest time into being good with people (people development, compassion, etc.), understanding your customers (internal and external), listening to a range of opinions (being inclusive of diverse thinking), building good problem solving/analytical skills, and clear communication.

4. Trust that meeting challenges requires identifying priorities.

One of the key challenges in my current role is the breadth of technologies and businesses I have to interact with. This means that the complexity and range of information I have to be aware of all the time is very large. It is impossible for me to be equally involved in everything that is going on, and I need to make choices of where to focus deeper. I have to be able to quickly identify higher risk areas and react quickly to make sure we continue to deliver high-quality results.

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