One of the events that sparked Professor Angela Guzman's interest in science as a child was man arriving on the moon. "At the time I was finishing high school, and I wanted to be able to send rockets to the moon, and so I decided to study physics," she remembers.
Professor Guzman received her undergraduate and master's degree from the Universidad Nacional de Colombia, in Bogota, Colombia. She then traveled to Germany where she obtained her PhD in non-linear optics from the Ludwig-Maximilians University of Munich. Professor Guzman is currently a faculty member at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, Florida, where she teaches and does basic theoretical research in quantum and atom optics.
After receiving her PhD, she moved back to Colombia to build up a research group in non-linear optics at the Universidad Nacional de Colombia. "I then moved into quantum and atomic optics. More than 10 years ago, I wrote a paper describing how to generate a coherent atomic beam. This was the beginning of research into how to construct a laser for atoms," Professor Guzman says.
"I think what is interesting about my life is that I am very international. I did research for almost 30 years at Universidad Nacional de Colombia before coming to Florida Atlantic University. In Colombia, although there were very few women working in physics at that time, there were more women working in science there [Colombia] than in the international arena," says Professor Guzman.
At the time of Professor Guzman's tenure at the Universidad Nacional de Colombia, the University was scientifically isolated from other countries; there were no journals or internet. The only way for researchers to disseminate their work was to attend scientific meetings and conferences. "For that, I always had to arrange ways to be with my children-- either take them with me or leave them with somebody," Professor Guzman adds.
"What I would say to young women is that one has to take all opportunities to advance your career. The only thing at the end counts is the work that you do," she says.
Professor Guzman has also organized several national and international meetings on optics, and for more than a decade she has been involved in voluntary work toward the promotion of optics research and education worldwide, with emphasis in developing countries. Since October 2008, she has served as the Secretary General of the International Commission for Optics.
The Commission supports meetings, visiting lectures, and collaborations in optics among different countries, and promotes optics activities going on all over the world. "Applied optics is one of those fields that can really contribute to the development of poorer countries," says Professor Guzman.
While in Columbia, Professor Guzman promoted the creation of what is called the Columbia Network on Optics, an organization that connects all the optics research groups in the country. The network hosts meetings, conferences, and invited lectures. "The stronger research groups help the weaker groups advance and give advice. Since then, we've done 11 meetings on optics in Colombia and the number of students in attendance continues to increase," she says.
"I think that's the purpose of all of these international societies and institutions, to make the research more global, and to give people from developing countries a chance to have contact with people from developed countries," she says.
If she didn't study physics, Professor Guzman might have studied biology. "I was also so intrigued by nature and by understanding why things are the way they are. But in any case, I would have continued to do science; generating knowledge and understanding is my passion," she reflects.
In her spare time, Professor Guzman enjoys reading American and Spanish Literature, dancing, and especially traveling. "I have many friends I like to visit from all over the world," she says.