Women Behind Innovation: Kimberly Peiler

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Kimberly Peiler is a Sr. Application Engineering Manager in North America for Osram Opto Semiconductors. With over 15 years of engineering experience in optoelectronics, the scope of her expertise includes automotive illumination and display, as well as a broad spectrum of mainstream LED applications in general lighting, horticulture lighting, and consumer electronics. She holds two patents for innovations in the optoelectronics field.

The Edison Awards recently spoke with Peiler about her interest in innovation, what misconceptions she feels people have about the fields and some of her career highlights. Here’s what she had to say:(edited for brevity and clarity)

When did your interest in engineering begin?

My first major interest in engineering came in 11th grade physics class. I had a very interesting teacher who was passionate about physics and fostered my interest in studying the practical field of engineering in college. My senior undergraduate thesis honed my interest further as I found optoelectronics. Infrared lasers were also fascinating to me and the aspects of light coupling and fiber optic data networks were areas I wanted to learn more about throughout my career. My fascination with lighting has still stayed with me, and I continue to love it today.

What was it like to be a woman studying in your field?

There were not many women studying electrical engineering when I was in college. I would guess less than 10%, but I never felt anything but normal, supportive interaction from the faculty and students I studied with at Kettering University. I had several female professors who were role models in the electrical engineering department. I had a few female upperclass college roommates who I can also thank for showing me that women can succeed and for studying with me those first semesters. I have enjoyed active roles in many research projects at universities with amazing professors, both while I was a student and afterward via supporting LED research and projects in advanced application fields such as solid state lighting, agriculture, and horticulture.

What do you like about your field and what you do?

I enjoy working in a field of engineering where you can literally see the results. Light is a very aesthetic, emotional, and obvious, yet it is scientific. I get to design new applications for light – building them, seeing them, quantifying them and improving them. Light affects everything so fundamentally, which is fascinating to me.

Do you think people have any misconceptions about what it’s like to be an engineer or about the field itself?

Engineering has a much better reputation nowadays than when I was younger. Children, including young girls, are introduced to it at a much younger age, which is critical. Robotics are cool. STEM is cool. We need to continue this mindset in the future. I personally want to see more and more young women pursuing technical positions.

How is your company bringing innovation to the forefront?

Osram Opto Semiconductors is shaping the future of lighting whether it is in your home, your car, a rock concert, a hospital, or the Sistine chapel, which is by the way lit by our LEDs. Osram’s core belief is that technology makes life better, whether it’s creating a brand new product or modifying a solution for a specific application. We also help our local educational institutions instill a spirit of innovation and excellence among their students. In particular, we are proud to offer co-op programs with a number of leading universities. Further, our technical workshops, research & development initiatives, and internship programs help us tap into local talent while encouraging local economic development and technical advancement.

To date, what project is your greatest success? What is the story behind that innovation?

Several years ago, I started working on the application for LEDs in the horticulture industry. I led the project and pushed my company to work with a professor from Michigan State University to conduct joint research into how specific spectral bands impact different aspects of plants seedlings in a controlled environment. Everyone knew that blue 450 nm and 660nm bands encouraged growth, but not exactly how to apply these and other wavelengths. This was a chance to learn and optimize the light for growing plants. The collaboration led to among other things the understanding that far-red 730 nm impacts the phytochrome photoreceptor in plants, and when applied a certain way makes them flower faster. A robust LED light source was clearly needed for these key applications. This important discovery led my company, Osram Opto Semiconductors, to introduce a new far-red LED product, which continues to separate us from our competitors to this day. My company won two innovation awards that year at Lightfair international as a result of this new product. The research and knowledge gained for such a cutting-edge application resulted in multiple speaking opportunities for me including the International Symposium on the Science and Technology of Lighting (LS13) and Strategies In Light (SIL). The caliber of the other presenters was impressive to the say the least, and I couldn’t believe that I was in such good company. It was definitely one of the highlights of my career.

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Mellissa Hopkins

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