Vamivakas is second recipient of Mandel Faculty Fellow Award


This illustration, by Michael Osadciw of Creative Serivces, shows an optically active quantum dot at the overlap of two atomically thin layers of tungsten diselenide. Nick Vamivakas, at right, recipient of the Mandel Faculty Fellow Award, is exploring this type of structure as "a transformative approach to controllable realization of defect-based quantum dots in atomically thin semiconductors."

Nick Vamivakas, associate professor of quantum optics and quantum physics and of physics and astronomy at the University of Rochester, is the second recipient of the Mandel Faculty Fellow Award.

The award is given every two years by the Department of Physics and Astronomy in honor of the late Leonard Mandel, a longtime University physicist and pioneer of quantum optics.  The award includes a grant of $25,000 to support the research of young faculty members whose interests are in quantum optics and atomic, molecular and optical physics -- the same areas that Mandel championed.

“Nick has lots of worthy targets for that money,” said Dan Watson, chair of the Department of Physics and Astronomy.

Vamivakas’ research centers on light-matter interaction and control of light, particularly in using optics to interrogate and control both artificial and naturally occurring solid-state quantum emitters. Potential applications range from optical metrology to quantum information science.  “Nick’s work is part of a great frontier that has promise for not only interesting physics but lots of invention and application,” Watson said.

For example, earlier this year Vamivakas received a prestigious Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) award from the National Science Foundation to pursue a transformative way of producing defect-based quantum dots in atomically thin semiconductors as a novel source of quantum light.

“This is definitely basic research,” Vamivakas emphasized in an interview. But he was also excited about the potential applications his research points toward. If the photon-emitting nanostructures he is working with could be substituted in place of lasers in integrated photonic chips, for example, “You could do things like computing and information processing that would be much faster. You could solve problems that you couldn’t solve with an ordinary electronic chip,” Vamivakas said.

The faculty committee that chose Vamivakas for the Mandel award also noted his involvement in The Institute of Optics’ annual summer Photon Camp for high school students, his 2015 G. Graydon Curtis ’58 and Jane W. Curtis Award for Nontenured Faculty Teaching, and his 2013 Young Scientist Prize in Quantum Electronics from the International Union of Pure and Applied Physics.

The inaugural recipient of the Mandel award in 2014 was Qiang Lin of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering.