The first South African to earn a doctorate in biophotonics was recognized by her nation’s leader, an honor that took her by surprise. A physics professor from the University of Sydney in Australia works with light to speed up the Internet. Two US high school students used photonics to demonstrate their understanding of biotechnology.
These and more comprise our second annual “Ones to Watch” list, a roundup of young researchers, education up-and-comers, and respected movers and shakers in the world of photonics. Although it would be impossible to capture in this list every winner of every relevant award, we believe these individuals embody the future of photonics.
Dr. Patience Mthunzi, a biophotonics researcher, was honored at South
Africa’s National Orders ceremony. Courtesy of Council for Scientific
and Industrial Research.
Dr. Patience Mthunzi
As the lone biophotonics researcher in South Africa, Mthunzi has been awarded the Order of Mapungubwe for her achievement in the field as well as her contribution to scientific research in South Africa and internationally. She will push herself even further, she says, just for the love of science. She holds a master’s degree in biochemistry from the University of Johannesburg and a doctoral degree in physics, in the area of biophotonics and optical tweezers, from the University of St. Andrews in Scotland.
Mthunzi, a senior scientist researcher at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research’s National Laser Centre in Pretoria, set up a fully functional cell-culture facility there before pursuing her doctorate. She is now in charge of single-cell and/or molecule biophotonics projects at the center. Her work includes conducting experiments in optical cell sorting in fluid-flow and fluid-flow-free microsample chambers via the use of novel optical landscapes. Her expertise encompasses phototransfection studies using femtosecond laser pulses for gene delivery into mammalian cells and pluripotent stem cells.
Dr. Chris B. Schaffer is an Arthur H. Guenther Congressional Fellow for 2012-2013.
Dr. Chris B. Schaffer
The Optical Society (OSA) and SPIE together have selected Schaffer as the Arthur H. Guenther Congressional Fellow for 2012-13. In this role, Schaffer, an associate professor in the biomedical engineering department at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., will learn about the process of policymaking while providing the perspective of a professional scientist and educator to congressional leaders.
Schaffer’s current laboratory work involves the investigation of cellular dynamics in neurological disease through optics-based studies in animal models. He also works to develop optical methods for quantitative imaging and targeted manipulation of cells and other biological structures applied in live animal studies.
He is particularly interested in helping reform science education at grade-school-through-college levels, both to increase the numbers of women and underrepresented minorities in the field and to help students better understand science as a creative process for discovery.
Dr. Benjamin J. Eggleton is the founding director of the Australian Research Council’s Centre of Excellence for Ultrahigh-Bandwidth Devices for Optical Systems (CUDOS). Courtesy of CUDOS.
Dr. Benjamin J. Eggleton
A professor of physics at the University of Sydney, Eggleton won the Australian Museum’s 2011 Eureka Prize for Leadership in Science. The optical physicist is the founding director of the Australian Research Council’s Centre of Excellence for Ultrahigh-Bandwidth Devices for Optical Systems (CUDOS). He and the CUDOS team created the country’s first photonic chip, which, by slowing the speed of light, can operate 1000 times faster than the traditional electronic technology. It has broken the world record for optical switching, according to the museum. The terabyte-per-second processing technology could have a transformative effect in many areas, including medicine, defense, education and international business. It already has applications in energy-efficient communications, quantum information processing, environmental monitoring and astronomy.
“Professor Eggleton’s research has consistently pushed the limits of optical technologies in his experimental and theoretical contributions,” said Frank Howarth, director of the Australian Museum. “At the same time, his strong leadership of the CUDOS multidisciplinary research center has seen it become a leading force on the international scientific stage, and means his impact on Australian science will be felt for many years to come.”
Jennifer Kruschwitz was honored as 2012 Technology Woman of the Year by Digital Rochester.
Women in Optics
Kruschwitz has been named 2012 Technology Woman of the Year by Digital Rochester, a group of professionals and companies working to strengthen the technology business community in the Rochester, N.Y., area. The award is designed to recognize and make visible the achievements of women in high-technology fields.
Kruschwitz, an independent consultant in optical interference coatings, earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in optics at the University of Rochester and is studying for her doctoral degree in color science at Rochester Institute of Technology. Currently an adjunct professor to the University of Rochester and the University of Arizona, she is a senior member of OSA and the International Society of Optical Engineers. Among her accomplishments, she has published several journal articles and holds two patents and two patents pending in the areas of laser cinema display and color. As chairwoman of the Women of the OSA, she profiled several “up-and-coming” female graduate students for the group’s newsletter.
Dr. Roberto Morandotti and his team developed a flexible, ultrasmall, ultrafast laser that is expected to have applications in a variety of fields. Courtesy of Christian Fleury.
Dr. Roberto Morandotti
A flexible, ultrasmall, ultrafast laser featured prominently in the April issue of Nature Communications
represents the work of Morandotti and his international team at INRS University’s Energy, Materials and Telecommunications Research Centre in Varennes, Quebec.
“We advanced a new approach to develop a laser that boasts as yet unparalleled stability and precision, allowing us to conduct new experiments and open up new realms of research,” Morandotti said, adding that applications may include biology, medicine, materials processing, information technology, high-speed communications and metrology. The researchers’ approach included integrating a resonator and a microring in the laser component, facilitating control of the light source.
Morandotti, who received the 2011 E.W.R. Steaci Memorial Fellowship – a prestigious award for young scientists in Canada – is a fellow of OSA and SPIE. An author of numerous scientific papers, his research interests include linear and nonlinear properties of various structures for integrated optics.
Dr. Christian Koos of Karlsruhe Institute of Technology received the 2012 Alfried Krupp Prize for Young University Teachers.
Young University Teacher
Dr. Christian Koos
A photonics professor at Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), Koos has received the 2012 Alfried Krupp Prize for Young University Teachers.
Koos’ work focuses on hybrid integration methods to combine silicon waveguides with organic materials to reduce the Internet’s energy consumption.
Before accepting the professorship for photonic communication technology at KIT, he headed the nanotechnology and metrology divisions within the Corporate Research and Technology Department of Carl Zeiss AG. He has more than 100 cited publications and has applied for more than 15 patents. In June 2011, he was granted a €1.5 million (about $1.8 million) European Research Council starting grant from the European Union.
Dr. Jean Dalibard received the 2012 Max Born Award for his work in physical optics.
Dr. Jean Dalibard
OSA has honored Dalibard with the 2012 Max Born Award for his contributions to the field of physical optics, particularly for his theoretical work in atom-light interactions, including the investigation of new laser cooling systems, and for experimental work on the optical manipulation of cold atoms and quantum gases. Dalibard is director of research at CNRS (National Center for Scientific Research) and works in the Kastler Brossel Laboratory at the École Normale Supérieure in Paris. He is also a professor at École Polytechnique. The award is in honor of Max Born, an early and distinguished physicist who contributed significantly to the field of optics.
This year, Dalibard also received the American Physical Society’s Davisson-Germer Prize in Atomic or Surface Physics. In 2009, the European Academy of Sciences awarded him the Blaise Pascal Medal in Physics “for his outstanding and influential work in atomic physics and quantum optics.”
Matthew N. Barnum
Anthony J. Visconti
The OSA Foundation has recognized Barnum, a 2012 graduate of the University of Arizona in Tucson, and Visconti, a graduate student at the University of Rochester, as recipients of the 2012 Robert S. Hilbert Memorial Travel Grant. The grant was established by Optical Research Associates (ORA), now the Optical Solutions Group at Synopsys Inc., as a memorial to Hilbert, ORA’s former president and CEO. The grant recognizes the research excellence of graduate students in optical engineering, lens design and/or illumination design.
Barnum and Visconti presented papers during topical meetings at OSA’s Imaging and Applied Optics Congress, held June 24-28 in Monterey, Calif. Barnum presented “Experimental Comparison of Computational Approaches to Focus Invariant Optical Systems” at the Computational Optical Sensing and Imaging Meeting. Visconti presented “Large Diameter Radial Gradient-Index Lenses Fabricated by Ion Exchange” at the Imaging Systems and Applications Meeting.
Optics Under 35
Dr. Hatice Altug
The Adolph Lomb Medal recognizes an honoree’s noteworthy contributions to optics before reaching the age of 35. OSA has recognized Boston University assistant professor Altug for her breakthrough contributions on integrated optical nanobiosensor and nanospectroscopy technologies based on nanoplasmonics, nanofluidics and novel nanofabrication. Altug was also on our “Ones to Watch” list in 2011 for being named the IEEE Photonics Society Young Investigator. Among her other recent honors is a 2011 Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers.
John Edward Solder
The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) component of the National Institutes of Health has awarded first place in its Addiction Science Award this year to Solder, 18, a senior at Staples High School in Westport, Conn. His project, “Optogenetic Interrogation of Prefrontal Cortex Dopamine D1 Receptor-Containing Neurons as a Technique to Restore Timing: A Novel Approach to Treat Prefrontal Disorders,” specifically controlled behavioral timing in mice genetically modified to activate dopamine neurons in the prefrontal cortex, a region involved in higher-order functions such as impulsivity and self-control, in response to a light stimulus.
Solder’s research provides another example of the power of optogenetics to modify neural activity in discrete brain areas at will and brings us a step closer to the development of novel therapies for a wide range of psychiatric disorders, according to the NIDA. He plans to attend Yale University in the fall.
Young Minds in Biotech
Julia Abelsky, Sandy Springs, Ga.
Nathan Kondamuri, Dyer, Ind.
Two winners of the recent US National BioGENEius Challenge were recognized for projects that included photonics. The US National and International BioGENEius Challenges are competitions for high school students who demonstrate an exemplary understanding of biotechnology through science research projects.
Abelsky’s research project was titled “Analysis of Cylindrically Confined Diblock Copolymers and Gold Nanocomposites for Metamaterials.”
Kondamuri focused his research on “A Novel Porphyrin Based Solar Cell Combining Coordinated Metal Ion Substitution and Self-Assembly to Broaden the Absorption Spectrum to Efficiently Create Sustainable Electrical Energy.”
The US winners advanced to the international competition. Kondamuri, a student at Munster High School in Indiana, won the International BioGENEius Challenge, held in June in Boston.