The day I told Prince Charles he was lovely
There is certainly no shortage of brain power at Southampton’s Optoelectronics Research Centre (ORC).
Regarded as one of the world’s leading institutes for photonics, the Centre boasts some of the most advanced facilities in which our community of pioneering researchers shape the future of fibre-optic technology.
So when PhD student Angeles Camacho received her invitation to Buckingham Palace for the presentation of the Queen’s Anniversary Prize – the most prestigious form of recognition for a vocational institution – she could be forgiven for thinking it was a joke.
“I didn’t believe it. I kept looking at the email and asking ‘could this be real?’ I was just in shock,” she says.
Angeles was chosen along with a handful of other students: Andrea Ravagli, Alex Jantzen and Ausra Cerkauskaite, to attend the event along with research fellow Dr Katrina Morgan, who was also stunned to receive her invitation.
Katrina said: “When you consider the sort of researchers who work at the ORC, to be given this opportunity really is something very special.”
Both women were chosen to represent the ORC at the royal event in recognition of the outreach work they do in bringing science to a wider audience and championing the role of women in science, which Katrina does as chair of the Women in Science, Engineering and Technology (WiSET) group at the University.
She said: “It meant a lot to be recognised for the work we do in the ORC but also for what we do outside of that. Ensuring gender equality in science is incredibly important to me so to have that work recognised was really significant too.”
A former industrial engineer in her home country of Mexico Angeles came to the UK six years ago. Being a mother of two she decided she wanted to further her interest through a PhD, but first had to master English.
“It is something I have struggled with but I have persevered. In fact when I first didn’t achieve my English qualification I was absolutely determined to do it so I could fulfil my ambition to take on the PhD and a future in this field.
“Having the experience of going to the Palace was the culmination of that perseverance. I think for the first time it allowed me to feel proud of what I had done and to show my children that anything is possible when you are determined to get there.”
Angeles, who is also president of the Optics and Photonics Society at the University and Chair for the XVI Mexican Symposium in UK 2018, said she was overwhelmed to be among the contingent to receive the award. “I always joke with my children about having good manners as you never know when you will be having tea with the Queen; and there I was, going to Buckingham Palace.”
She described the moment she met with Prince Charles. “We were gathered in our group when he came over to talk to us about our work. He asked what I did and where I was from originally, and then complimented me on by English – which no one has ever done before. I was so happy all I could say was ‘You are so lovely!’”
Both women say the experience has been a highlight of their time at Southampton. Katrina says: “It really is an incredible place to work, the ORC is just amazing as a facility and to be in a field where you are engineering solutions in product form for industry, and at the same time getting the opportunity to encourage young people, particularly young women in to careers with science, is really fantastic.”