This is one of five profiles spotlighting an outstanding postdoc as part of Baskin Engineering’s celebration of National Postdoc Appreciation Week, September 20–24. Visit Baskin Engineering News and Voices of Baskin of Engineering for additional profiles of outstanding postdocs.
Katie Hellier’s journey to Baskin Engineering began over ten years ago when she transferred to UC Santa Cruz to earn a bachelor’s degree in physics. She had previously graduated with an associate's degree from the Fashion Institute of Merchandising (FIDM) in San Francisco, but with limited job opportunities during the 2008 recession, she decided to pursue other interests.
Hellier’s passion for physics led her to pursue a Ph.D.—also at UCSC—under the guidance of Physics Professor Sue Carter. Her doctoral research on solar cells, LED, photodetectors, and applications in power generating greenhouses caught the eye of Assistant Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering Shiva Abbaszadeh. Seeing the connection between Hellier’s work and her own research, Abbaszadeh recruited Hellier, after completing her Ph.D., to the Radiological Instrumentation Lab (RIL) at the Baskin School of Engineering. Since joining the RIL as a postdoc in May 2021, Hellier has been working with Abbaszadeh to develop UV and X-ray detector devices for medical imaging, including a device for early cancer detection that can capture better images from fewer angles and reduce the amount of radiation exposure for patients.
In addition to her research efforts, she helps manage the RIL, collaborates with other universities on multiple research initiatives, writes research grants, and mentors students with their research projects.
Hellier is also helping plan the American Physical Society’s (APS) Conference for Undergraduate Women in Physics (CUWiP) at UC Santa Cruz. The three-day conference, scheduled for January 2022, brings together undergraduate women scientists for a chance to network, attend workshops, and hear from leading experts in physics and engineering. CUWiP is open to all STEM students and aims to increase representation of underrepresented students in these fields.
“I’m really passionate about science communication and diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI)—and this conference represents all of that,” said Hellier.