Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU)

Nanophotonics, Quantum Photonics, and Vision/Biomedical Optics at University of Rochester

Photonics REU Graphic

Nanophotonics, Quantum Photonics, and Vision/Biomedical Optics at University of Rochester aims to create a well-defined pipeline to a career in photonics for REU participants. There is a particular focus on underrepresented demographics, undergraduates from colleges without strong photonics research programs, and community college students—all of whom might not otherwise recognize photonics as a possible career path.

This program will engage participating students in the frontiers of photonics research in nanoscience, vision science, bioscience, and quantum science while at the same time providing them with experiences to recognize the excellent career opportunities, both academic and industry based, available in photonics. The host department is the university’s world-renowned Institute of Optics, located in the Hajim School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. REU participants will benefit from the Institute’s Summer School, its Industrial Associates program, and its strong ties with the local Rochester photonics industry.

The Nanophotonics, Quantum Photonics, and Vision/Biomedical Optics REU is coordinated by the university’s David T. Kearns Center, home to a vibrant community of undergraduate scholars. REU students will spend nine weeks living with and learning among 60-70 other undergraduate researchers. You will conduct 300 hours of research under the guidance of one or more of the University of Rochester’s premier faculty members, attend several seminars and workshops that discuss in-depth research techniques, complex problems and finding unique solutions, as well as career opportunities and preparation. You will create academic presentations and present a final poster at the end of the summer. In addition, you will visit and enjoy the summer scene of Rochester, NY and spend time bonding with new friends.


REU students will experience multiple layers of mentoring. In their research, student will will work closely with a faculty member and an assigned graduate student. In addition, each REU research cohort (nano, bio, and quantum, and vision/biomedicine) will meet regularly with a dedicated graduate student mentor assigned to their area to discuss the broader picture. Additionally, REU participants will also serve as mentors themselves during their summer experience, as part of a one-week summer program hosted for local high school students.


The primary mission of the REU program is that each participant has a meaningful research experience in one of the host faculty laboratories. The assembled faculty mentor team is already active in sponsoring productive undergraduate research, with the participating faculty sponsoring more than 110 undergraduate researchers in the past 5 years, resulting in over 20 papers.

Program Dates: May 28 to August 3, 2024

The Photonics REU provides a $6000 research stipend and paid on-campus housing.

Students should review the eligibility and application requirements before applying to the program. Last year we were able to accommodate students whose semesters ended in early June; please contact us ahead of time if this applies to you.

If you have questions about this Photonics REU program or about the application process, please contact Prof. Andrew Berger at For details about the general REU experience at the University of Rochester, we encourage you to visit the Research Experiences for Undergraduates page in the Kearns Center website (covering several REUs at the university) or send an email to

2024 Research Opportunities
Faculty MemberProject Area
Andrew BergerOptical spectroscopy for bone quality monitoring: X-rays scans are surprisingly bad at determining whether a particular bone is prone to fracture. Our group works on providing complementary chemical information about bones using optical spectroscopy. In this project, near-infrared light diffuses through overlying skin and muscle, scatters off of the bone, and diffuses back to the surface where it is collected. Some of the scattered light comes back at longer wavelengths that encode information about the bone’s mineral and protein composition. REU students will help to extend this methodology, proven on living mice, to human hand cadaver specimens in preparation for eventual measurements on huma subjects.
Nick VamivakasQuantum light matter interfaces: A quantum light matter interface (QLMI) is highly desirable for applications in quantum information science. This REU project will focus on characterizing the optical properties of novel defect-based QLMIs. Our group has discovered and demonstrated that defects in solid-state materials hold much promise for QLMIs. In parallel to doing spectroscopy of solid-state material defects, the student will pursue approaches to tailor the radiative dynamics of the QLMI by sculpting the local optical density of states via proximal nanophotonic structures. These devices can be both passive and active engendering a great deal of control and functionality to the QLMI.
Robert BoydAdvanced schemes for free-space quantum key distribution (QKD): We are studying QKD based on encoding in the orbital angular momentum (OAM) degree of freedom of light. OAM has enormous potential for use in high-capacity QKD, essentially because of the very large information content available through this sort of encoding. As attractive as OAM-QKD is, there are several challenges to its full deployment that REU students can help address as part of this research effort. (1) Continue to perfect our working OAM-QKD system by improving the various elements of this system, such as the OAM sorter and bright sources of entangled photons. (2) Paying close attention to developing means to mitigate the effects of propagation through severe atmospheric conditions. (3) Developing means to avoid the issue of long dead times associated with the use of APDs in QKD systems.
Thomas BrownOptical metrology for photonic systems: Silicon based photonic integrated circuits are now being designed and fabricated at a number of foundries around the country, including AIM Photonics. However the accurate characterization of the polarization state of light within the waveguide using external testing is still an unsolved problem. The REU scholar in this project will work toward camera-based methods of characterizing the light scattered from engineered nanoscale scatterers fabricated within the AIM process.
Jaime CardenasIntegrated photonic devices: Do optics on the tip a needle. Undergraduate students will work on projects that push the state of the art in integrated photonic devices for communications, sensing, and quantum. They will be immersed in a diverse group with PhD and MS students.
Qiang LinIntegrated quantum photonics: The undergraduate(s) will participate in projects related to generating and manipulating photonic quantum states on chip-scale devices, aiming for intensive training on integrated photonic circuits, quantum photonic technology, and quantum information science in general.
Susana MarcosDesigning and simulating multifocal lenses: Multifocal lenses, working under the principle of simultaneous vision, are increasingly-used solutions for control of myopia progression (in young myopes) and for correction of presbyopia (in older adults that have lost the ability to accommodate). During the project, new multifocal phase patterns aiming at those applications will be defined and transferred to intraocular/contact lens designs. Vision through these corrections will be simulated in adaptive optics and simultaneous vision simulators.
Ben MillerOptical biotarget detection: One potential REU research project in the Miller group will center on characterizing photonic biosensors (silicon nitride ring resonators) with on-chip integrated spectrometers. Students will learn how to assemble microfluidic channels, determine bulk refractive index sensitivity of devices with sensors operating under flow, and compare observed device performance to expectations based on modeling and manufacturing variability.
Andrea PickelTemperature-Dependent Hyperspectral Imaging: This project focuses on developing a new nanothermometry technique that combines super-resolution imaging with temperature-dependent luminescence spectroscopy. This non-invasive technique can be applied to diagnose thermal failure mechanisms in microelectronic, data storage, and optoelectronic devices. Specific tasks will include developing Python-based hardware control and data acquisition code, measuring and analyzing point spread functions, and using finite element thermal modeling to inform the design of spatial resolution test targets.
William RenningerNovel and accessible femtosecond lasers for bioimaging: Scattering of biological tissue makes deep imaging impossible for traditional fluorescence microscopy. Nonlinear optical microscopy overcomes this limitation because nonlinearly generated photons from a focus can be readily assigned to their origin. Nonlinear imaging is a crucial tool needed for a comprehensive understanding of the human brain, for example. However, current optical sources needed for this advanced technology are limited and expensive. The REU student will help design robust and high-performance ultrashort pulsed optical sources designed for advanced biomedical technologies. These systems involve complex nonlinear optical dynamics and the research will include both theoretical and experimental investigations.

Customizing light-sound interactions for photonics, quantum computing and astronomy: Brillouin scattering, one of the strongest nonlinear optical effects, leverages the coherent interaction between light with sound to enable technological advances for sensing, microwave processing, and high coherence source generation. Recent discoveries in this field, including long-lived phonons at low temperatures and lower frequency phonons in acoustic waveguides have enabled new opportunities for applications. However, applications including high-speed photonic networking, quantum computing, and dark matter detection require greatly improved versatility for these interactions. The REU student will help explore and apply novel optomechanical interactions across new frequency regimes. This research includes both theoretical and experimental investigations.
Jannick RollandImaging and sensing with laser light: This project aims to advance our understanding of human vision. In this project, we have designed, built, and conducted early testing of retinal imaging of the foveola, a small part of the fovea, where visual acuity is highest in humans. We are currently upgrading the imaging system with a display system that is custom-designed and built to provide key stimuli in psychophysics experiments. The project will involve learning the overall retinal imaging optical system, how to align it and test its performance, and writing supporting software to automate the display of stimuli to humans as well as conducting the analysis of retinal images acquired during the experiments. Finally, the student will be exposed to methods of eye tracking also investigated, to connect eye motion to cognitive tasks. This project involves a strong collaboration with faculty in Optics and Brain and Cognitive Science at the University of Rochester.

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To be eligible, an applicant must meet all of the following criteria:

  • Be a US citizen or permanent resident
  • Be majoring in the physical sciences or engineering with at least one semester left to complete the undergraduate degree

Participants are selected based upon academic achievement and scientific interests. This project places emphasis on recruiting low-income and underrepresented minority students, students from community colleges, and students from 4-year colleges that lack comparable summer research opportunities.

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How to Apply

Use this link to apply to the Photonics REU opportunity:

Applications can also be initiated through the general website for NSF REUs that use the ETAP platform.

To submit your application, you first create an ETAP account. You can select up to ten REU programs and apply to them using a “Common App” format. A common portion will prompt you for a CV, a transcript, contact information for letter writers (they will be notified automatically and will send the letters directly to the Photonics REU program), and a 500-word statement about your interest in pursuing an REU in general. You will also have to answer some program-specific questions and upload a PDF specifically for the Nanophotonics, Quantum Photonics, and Vision/Biomedical Optics at University of Rochester.

Applications for the 2024 Photonics REU program open November 1, 2023. Priority review of applications will begin after February 15, 2024, but rolling submissions are welcomed after that until all slots are filled.

You can submit your application whenever it is ready; you do not have to wait for your reference letters to be sent first.

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