"Exploring Diversity and Visibility" featuring: Klaus Jaeger, Timothy Imogore and Sile Nic Chormaic

Optica Community features Timothy Imogore, Ph.D. student at the Abbe School of Photonics

The latest Optica Community article tells the story of a young Nigerian surviving sectarian violence, finding escape through education at ASP in Jena and advancing optics in Africa.
"Exploring Diversity and Visibility" featuring: Klaus Jaeger, Timothy Imogore and Sile Nic Chormaic
Image: WeAreOSA
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Published: | By: Optica Community, edited by Luca Hager and Christian Helgert.

A Photonics Master and PhD career made in Jena

Timothy Imogore in the lab Timothy Imogore in the lab Image: DAAD- F. Strangmann

"Survivor," the latest installment in the Optica Community series features Timothy Imogore, a Nigerian PhD student with a passion for empowering other young Africans to pursue optics and photonics. Imogore’s drive to promote optics education and support others in their career stems from his experiences growing up amidst turmoil in his home country.

Imogore was a teenager living in Zamfara State, Northern Nigeria, when it declared Sharia Law. “Hostility came with the declaration. It made Zamfara look like an Islamic state. There are lots of wonderful supportive Muslims, but after Sharia law, everyone was very tense. Sharia led to the deaths of over twenty thousand people. We now have one of the highest poverty rates in Nigeria, and it’s getting worse.”

The ensuing chaos threatened to take a toll on Imogore’s education. “The religious intolerance led to riots and massacres. Imagine being a kid in a school and hearing gunshots outside. It was terrible.” Despite this trauma, Imogore saw education as a way to build a better future for himself and his country. "In Nigeria, there is no integration of cultures. It doesn't happen. In my opinion, education is key. You see people of all cultures and backgrounds integrate when you go to a high-educational setting like a university. Education breaks down walls; it pushes diversity."

Imogore pursued his dream of becoming a physicist, studying physics at the Federal University of Technology, Minna Nigeria. In 2015, he won an Abbe School of Photonics scholarship for the M.Sc. Photonics program and set out for Friedrich Schiller University Jena.  Later in 2018, Timothy became a member of the ASP doctoral program as a PhD student within the DFG-funded International Research Training Group (IRTG) 2101 "Guided light, tightly packed". "I fell in love with Jena. The absence of religious and gender segregation and discrimination was a breath of fresh air.”

P. Scott Carney, Optica’s Chief Scientist said, “Timothy Imogore is a survivor. He has had brushes with death brought about by bad luck, religious hatred, and civil unrest. Today he is building technology that is crucial to the communication network that brings the world together and connects people and cultures for those not fortunate enough to travel themselves.”

Imogore is committed to giving back by advancing optics and photonics in Africa. “Africa has the potential to be an optics and photonics powerhouse like the US and Germany. My vision is to see the potential of young Africans put to use to make the African continent a key player not just in optics and photonics but in other high-tech fields.” Imogore is finding ways to advance his vision, including serving on Optica’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Rapid Action Committee. “I felt honored to be offered this opportunity to contribute to the optics and photonics community. This is my passion – advancing the progress of my home country and continent through optics and photonics by tapping the potential of others like me.”

Original story from the Optica Community 

“Survivor” is the sixth story in the Optica Community series celebrating the members of Optica (formerly OSA), Advancing Optics and Photonics worldwide. To learn more about Timothy Imogore, read “Survivor”External link. Also hereExternal link you can listen to a podcast about diversity, visibility, and intersectionality in the sciences featuring the Ph.D. student from the Abbe School of Photonics.

Optica’s Community Values

Optica has been a respected authority on light science and technology for more than a century, with a heritage dating back to the Optical Society of America's founding in 1916. Optica’s publications, programs, events, and advocacy support the optics and photonics community as they invent the future and uncover the beautiful secrets of the universe with light. Today, Optica unites a diverse population of students, scientists, engineers and professionals working in light science and technology. The society is a champion for the field and advocates for the interests of its members around the world. The Optica Community series is a collection of extraordinary life stories celebrating Optica's global diversity and the values its members share. 

Readers can find the Optica Community series at www.optica.org/en-us/about/optica_communityExternal link.