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Female Disruptors: Lori R. Brock of OSRAM SYLVANIA, has shaken up how light can be used

I’m bringing to market technologies for new applications of visible and invisible light. When people think of lighting they typically think of simple lightbulbs designed for illuminating objects and spaces. I’m working on emerging uses of light beyond visual perception in fields like health, well-being and mobility. One project I am excited about is tunable […]


I’m bringing to market technologies for new applications of visible and invisible light. When people think of lighting they typically think of simple lightbulbs designed for illuminating objects and spaces. I’m working on emerging uses of light beyond visual perception in fields like health, well-being and mobility. One project I am excited about is tunable LED fixtures and sensors for horticultural applications, so that farmers can optimize food growth within greenhouses and farms year-round in urban areas. Another cool example is infrared lasers for LiDAR systems that are enabling the adoption of self-driving vehicles. If you’re not familiar with LiDAR, it is like radar, but with pulsed infrared laser light instead of radio waves. The light in LiDAR bounces off of objects in the road, as well as on the periphery and is detected with a sensor. This signal forms a basis of a real-time map that helps the self-driving vehicle safely navigate the road ahead.


I had the pleasure to interview Lori R. Brock, Ph.D.. Lori is the Head of Innovation Americas at OSRAM SYLVANIA, a global lighting manufacturer and technology company. In this role she guides the digital transformation of OSRAM from a traditional manufacturer of LED lighting products toward a data-based and platform-driven business. Brock joined OSRAM SYLVANIA in 1998 as a postdoctoral research associate and held a series of technical positions before joining the management team in 2005. Prior to OSRAM SYLVANIA she was a postdoctoral research fellow within the Combustion Research Facility at Sandia National Laboratories in Livermore, Calif. She holds a doctorate in Physical Chemistry from the University of Georgia. Brock’s current R&D interests include applications of light based on semiconductor technology and the use of LEDs and lasers for applications beyond illumination. This includes UV, visible and IR emitting devices and sensors for autonomous driving, wearables, mobile phones, health and well-being, virtual and augmented reality, connected buildings and controlled environment agriculture to name a few.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

You can say I’ve always had a passion for light. In high school, I was involved with musical theater, but not the singing and acting. I was behind the scenes, working on the technical side of the productions, specifically the stage lighting, which taught me about the emotional impact of lighting. It also earned me the fortunately short-lived nickname “Lori Lights.” My interest in light continued in college and grad school, where I studied chemistry. In grad school I used high power laser light to probe the energetics of unusual molecules that can be found in places like combustion engines and outer space. This ultimately led to a position in lighting technology as a postdoctoral research associate at Osram Sylvania, Inc., a global lighting technology company, where I am now the Head of Innovation for the Americas Region.

What is it about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?

I’m bringing to market technologies for new applications of visible and invisible light. When people think of lighting they typically think of simple lightbulbs designed for illuminating objects and spaces. I’m working on emerging uses of light beyond visual perception in fields like health, well-being and mobility. One project I am excited about is tunable LED fixtures and sensors for horticultural applications, so that farmers can optimize food growth within greenhouses and farms year-round in urban areas. Another cool example is infrared lasers for LiDAR systems that are enabling the adoption of self-driving vehicles. If you’re not familiar with LiDAR, it is like radar, but with pulsed infrared laser light instead of radio waves. The light in LiDAR bounces off of objects in the road, as well as on the periphery and is detected with a sensor. This signal forms a basis of a real-time map that helps the self-driving vehicle safely navigate the road ahead.

We all need a little help along the journey — who have been some of your mentors?

I’ve had a handful of extremely inspiring mentors in my professional career such as my graduate school research advisor and one of my first technical managers at Osram Sylvania. I actively seek out mentors and role models with qualities I admire and then mimic their behaviors in my life, both professionally and personally. Like many people, I’ve also had influencers in my career who have been lackluster. I’ve carefully observed their negative traits, and have learned a lot from them about what not to do.

Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.

With respect to work-life balance I received the advice “It is not just what you do from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. that counts. What you do from 5 p.m. to 9 a.m. is just as important.” There is no magic algorithm for determining the optimal for work-life balance for an individual, it takes persistence, resolve, and constant tweaking. “The Golden Rule” is great advice, people should aim to treat each other as they would like to be treated themselves. It is a great morale guide for decision making.

How are you going to shake things up next?

Light plays a critical role in synchronizing our circadian rhythm, which is our 24-hour sleep-wake cycle. Every morning when we are exposed to light, our circadian rhythm is reset. Thanks to modern life, much of our time is spent indoors, leading to irregular exposure to natural light and, as a result, circadian rhythms that are often out of sync with the natural daylight cycle. This leads to decreased health and well-being and problems including chronic sleep deficits, poor sleep quality, and daytime fatigue. I’m shaking things up by providing new products to address this issue, called “Human Centric lighting” or HCL. This is the term the industry uses to describe advanced lighting solutions that help to entrain our circadian rhythm, enhance our sleep quality, and therefore improve our overall well-being.

Do you have a book/podcast/talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us?

I read about one book per week, so there are a lot to choose from! I loved “In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex” byNathaniel Philbrick. It an extremely well-written, horrifying yet fascinating, story about the fate of the Whaleship Essex’s crew in 1820 after it is rammed by a sperm whale. It is an excellent model on how to tell a true story in a very compelling manner. In science, engineering, and technology it is important to express the facts in a potent and captivating style.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Did you know that only around 60 percent of the eligible voting age population turns out to vote in U.S. elections? This is disappointing in a democracy that is based on the participation of the people. I’d love to inspire every eligible voter to cast a ballot.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Tacked to the wall in the lab where I did my graduate school research was a faded paper sign stating, “If you always do what you’ve always done then you’ll always get what you’ve always gotten.” This quote spoke to my sense of risk taking versus the ease of complacency. One example of its relevance was moving to California for an exciting new opportunity in a national laboratory which transformed my career trajectory, and my personal life. I could have easily stayed in my comfort zone on the East Coast where I grew up and was surrounded by the familiar. But taking risks has been a lot more fun than playing it safe.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

You can find me here: https://www.linkedin.com/in/loribrock/

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