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Applied Physics graduate student Haley Bauser is the inaugural recipient of the KNI Catalyst Awards program, which honors scientists for their outstanding commitment to community outreach, diversity, equity and inclusion at Caltech and JPL.
2021 KNI Catalyst Awardee Spotlight
Graduate Student in the Atwater Research Group
Department of Applied Physics
Division of Engineering and Applied Sciences
Community Engagement Positions:
Co-founder, Caltech for Black Lives (C4BL)
Chair, Community Unlearning Working Group
Co-founder, Social Action Team (SAT) of the Atwater Research Group
Tutor, RISE program
Recent Research Publications:
AlSb as a material for high index contrast nanophotonics, Optical Materials Express, 2021
Outdoor performance of a tandem InGaP/Si photovoltaic luminescent solar concentrator, Solar Energy Materials & Solar Cells, 2020
Haley Bauser is a fifth-year graduate student researcher in Dr. Atwater’s group. Her research centers broadly on photovoltaic renewable technology. An active KNI Lab user, Haley fabricates high contrast grating reflectors and photonic crystal waveguides to manipulate light in luminescent solar concentrators for solar photovoltaic technology and carbon dioxide reduction. Since the Covid pandemic began, she published two first-author papers, including one that demonstrates how 92% of light can be trapped using photonic crystals.
Haley grew up in Virginia Beach, VA, and attended the College of William & Mary on a full academic scholarship where she originally began studying International Relations. During her time there, she was met with challenging circumstances that she ultimately turned into opportunities, including a research stint with Dr. Irina Novikova’s group on quantum optics. Haley learned she enjoyed the research environment and decided to pivot into a Physics major, where she was able to participate in paid summer undergraduate internships and fellowships.
Haley first ventured to California during graduate school admissions visits. As a female scientist, Haley was acutely aware of the gender gap in STEM and certain labs. She chose to come to Caltech for her Ph.D. after she witnessed the good working environment and diversity that existed within the Atwater Group.
Engagement in outreach and social justice issues aren’t new for Haley; she has been interested in these topics since high school. A consistent priority for Haley has been finding ways to connect to the community around her:
“Scientists and people in college are in a position of privilege – sometimes in academia you feel so temporary, but you can still do things to be integrated with the community around you, to be a member of it, rather than an outlier or separate [from] it.”
The events of this past year catalyzed Haley to become even more active in community work. In June 2020, she provided support to BSEC members by preparing material for their campus-wide Town Hall meeting. In an effort to continue its momentum and ensure reforms from the petition were met, Haley, along with Cora Went, Sean Pike, Reina Buenconsejo, and Aida Behmard co-founded Caltech for Black Lives, an ally group that closely communicates with BSEC and helps to carry out its initiatives and priorities. Haley and the other C4BL co-founders were struck by the large amount of time and effort BSEC members invested into the Town Hall, on top of the pandemic and the social unrest happening at that time:
“We thought, ‘why don’t we put together a group that will keep an eye on the BSEC petition and the Caltech administration and what they’re doing and continue this level of activism and an organization where people can help out so not all of the labor keeps falling on BSEC?’”
Since September 2020, C4BL has hosted several meetings and events focusing on racial justice issues, most notably a three-part town hall series called The Reckoning Task Force (RTF) about the importance of building renaming put on by C4BL’s Community Unlearning Working Group, which Haley chairs. Each meeting centered around a specific topic: “Racism for Scientists”, “Eugenics at Caltech”, and “How We Rename”. Impressively, more than 100 attendees participated at each meeting where they held candid, meaningful conversations on the themes.
Haley is particularly happy to see that the issue of “renaming” is being addressed – in January 2021, Caltech’s Board of Trustees authorized the removal of Robert Millikan and E.S. Gosney’s names from campus buildings. In terms of next steps, C4BL plans to hold another Town Hall as a one-year check-in to review the progress made since BSEC’s petition was released.
Haley continues to leverage her roles within Caltech to spread awareness on social and racial justice more broadly across the Caltech community. The RTF meetings and discussions, along with the “Shut Down STEM Day” event she co-hosted for the Atwater research group, are a few examples of Haley’s efforts to educate and galvanize people on campus. Before this, Haley volunteered as a tutor with Caltech Y’s RISE program for two years, working one-on-one with K-12 students in the local area.
When asked what she thinks the landscape at Caltech will look like in ten years, Haley remains optimistic. While she hopes campus will be more representative of larger population, she is most eager to see more people leaning in and creating an environment that supports all students. She hopes to see more faculty become actively involved in pushing for the items listed in the BSEC petition. Haley elaborates:
“I’d like to see everyone get involved in some type of outreach for the purpose of helping others. I’d like that to be the norm. There are great groups doing amazing work in Pasadena and the local area. The place you can make the most change is your immediate community.”
As for her own personal long-term goals, Haley would like to stay in the LA area, where she can build and foster the immediate community around her. Career-wise, working at JPL is high on her list, or a place similar to it, where she can continue solving challenges and making advancements in renewable energy technology.