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Dreaming of new optics technology: Yiyang Wu

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Yiyang WuThe optics field is conducive to imaginative ideas that can benefit industry. Yiyang Wu, a second-year Master of Science student studying optics at the University of Rochester, has found this to be true during his time as a student and research assistant. He has been involved in optics for about six years and also has a background in entrepreneurship.

In his research at the university’s Institute of Optics, Wu is focusing on two-wavelength phase-shifting interferometry to measure the wavefront and phase changes of ophthalmic materials.

“Typical clinic materials include hydrogel and cornea with particular micromachining laser patterns. In the future, these could be used to make Fresnel lenses inside our contact lenses or cornea, and the experiment shows promising preliminary results with exceptional biosafe compatibility,” Wu said in an interview with Photonics Media. Because the human eye is so delicate, the metrology has to be performed with nanolevel precision for aberration measurement of the lenses.

In the lab, Wu built and automatized an experimental interferometry system for testing and analyzing samples with home-written algorithms.

He said his motivation for entering the optics field is family-oriented. When his grandfather lost his vision, Wu would help him see by describing objects and their colors.

“So I chose optics accidentally for fun, without really knowing what it is. But later on I found I was wrong,” Wu said. “Optics is more than ‘This is a red table.’ How red-ish is red? Is it 632.8 nm or 633 nm? Is the sunshine the same ‘white’ as LED ‘white’?” As he continued to study optics, he discovered that it is much more rooted in engineering and numbers than he had originally thought. This helped him to take it seriously as an academic pursuit, while also being able to find the fun in it.

Wu said that optics sparks his creativity and imagination, and the excitement he feels about optics-related experiments often spreads to his companion researchers. One dream he said he would love to see come to fruition is the development of a technology that is able to embed computer-generated vision into a human retina. Such a technology could assist people whose eyes cannot be repaired through current surgical techniques, and it would be life-changing. “I think it would be cool if my grandpa [could] see whatever he wants to and experience many visual experience[s] beyond his physical ability.” Wu said he will continue creating and innovating to bring this dream to life.

Photonics Spectra
Dec 2020
Grad Student Profiles

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