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Scott Bickham

In this installment of Senior Member Insights, we talk with Scott Bickham. Since 1999, Scott has been an optical physicist and fiber design expert in the optical fiber applied research/development group for Corning Optical Fiber, USA. In 2006, he began designing multimode fibers and led the development effort that yielded the world’s first bend-insensitive multimode fiber.

Now a Development Fellow at Corning, Scott contributes to the development of low-attenuation submarine fibers, bend-insensitive single-mode fibers, single-mode fibers with an enhanced Brillouin-scattering threshold, and dispersion-managed fibers for submarine applications.  Before joining Corning, he was a Director’s Fellow at Los Alamos National Laboratory, USA, and an NRC Research Associate at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory.

Looking back ten years, what would have surprised you about your career now?

I think I would be surprised that I am conceptually doing very similar work in terms of finding and solving problems in optical communications, but with more resources and leverage given the growth of the industry in the last five years.

Do you have any advice for dealing with a particularly challenging colleague or supervisor?

Find a coach, mentor or someone you can trust, who is not a family member, with whom you can speak openly about the situation you are facing.  Also, it’s important to recognize different working styles and learn how to use it to influence others to work as a team.

What professional resources do you rely on to stay active and engaged with your field?

Generally Optical Society meetings, but one activity sometimes overlooked is being a reviewer of technical journal articles or participating on a committee, such as those associated with OFC.  The latter was a particularly good experience for me.

What have you learned by being a mentor to others, and what have you learned from mentors who helped shepherd your career?

When it comes to mentoring, or even teaching a technical course on a topic related to optical communications (which I do frequently internally as well as externally), I feel it’s important to look for opportunities to make it a learning experience.  If one achieves two-way engagement, then it’s a worthwhile endeavor for both sides.

What habits do you frequently rely on that help you to succeed?

Being a scientist can be stressful, so find an outlet for that stress outside of work so that you don’t become frustrated at work.  Mine is running, but others do yoga, cycle or walk.

If you weren’t in the sciences, what would be your dream career?

Probably a rock musician—although I started dreaming about being a scientist when I was quite young, so am I not already experiencing my dream career?