Computer scientist

    Katia Vega

    With consumers saying they are 11 times more likely to buy when AR try-on is available, the beauty industry is crying out for STEM grads like Katia.

    Katia Vega is a fashion-forward US-based computer scientist who creates computers you wear.

    Katia Vega’s unique STEM career has taken her around the world. Born and raised in South America, the passionate coder kickstarted her future-driven pathway with a Bachelor of Computer Science at UNMSM (Peru), followed by a Masters and PhD degree at PUC-Rio (Brazil). “I have a novel way of interacting with the world,” she says. “I’m inspired by invisible computing, augmenting human capabilities and magic.”

    After scoring a graduate gig as a research assistant in the Wearables Lab at Hong Kong Baptist University, Katia realised that her two polar-opposite passions (computers and beauty) could be combined to create a computing platform dedicated to creating the next generation of tech-led cosmetic products. “It’s based on a wearable computing subfield that integrates technology into cosmetics,” Katia says of her invention Beauty Technology. “It transforms the body’s surface into an interactive platform.”

    RELATED: Why our beauty and fashion industries are crying out for STEM grads

    The cutting-edge software business is the digital brains behind what the beauty industry will be offering in the future – conductive make-up, tech nails, FX e-make-up and hairware.

    Not just a pretty (inter)face

    In an average week Katia embeds electromagnetic magnets into false nails to open doors, designs temporary tattoos equipped with LEDs for high-fashion catwalks and programs intuitive false lashes to turn on lights.

    Alongside her own work on Beauty Technology she’s contributed to research at MIT media
    lab – with interactive tattoos, skin prosthetics and colour-changing make-up – and is now an Assistant Professor in the University of California’s Department of Design.

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    If it’s beauty-related and doesn’t exist yet, chances are she’s working on it.

    Katia’s study and career pathway

    This article originally appears in Careers with STEM: Tech 2020.

    Cassie Steel

    Author: Cassie Steel

    As Refraction’s digital editor, Cassie Steel spends her days researching robots and stalking famous scientists on Twitter.

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