Photonics in Singapore: An International Experience

Alexander Dubrovkin explores the global world of optics from Singapore.


figureDubrovkin in front of Marina Bay, the financial center of Singapore. 

I came to Singapore in July of 2013, but my journey into the global optical community was inspired years earlier. It was the summer of 2010, and I was finishing my Ph.D. training at Lomonosov Moscow State University in Russia. I got a knock on my laboratory door—it was a tour group from the International OSA Network of Students-8 (IONS-8) conference with then-OSA President James Wyant.

My meeting with the IONS-8 group and Wyant got me interested in visiting optical institutions around the world. I attended another IONS meeting in August 2011 at the Optoelectronics Research Centre (ORC), University of Southampton, U.K. This is where I first met Professor Nikolay Zheludev. After completing postdoctoral research in Russia and France, I followed an opportunity to be a part of Zheludev’s new Centre in Singapore. While there, I also enjoyed learning more about Singaporeans and exploring their unique country.

Arriving in Singapore

Located in Southeast Asia, this sovereign city-state and island country overcomes extreme scarcity of land with wisely planned, lofty infrastructure. Singapore has a renowned financial center and one of the world’s busiest ports. It also has a reputation for having a very international population. A considerable percentage of the people living in Singapore are so-called “foreign talent,” educated workers from abroad.

As a research fellow at the new Centre for Disruptive Photonic Technologies (CDPT), I spend most of my time on the main campus of Nanyang Technological University (NTU). The university is in the southwestern part of the island. The combination of modern faculty buildings and traditional residences makes the campus unforgettable. NTU aims to create a vibrant, highly effective environment—from its architecture to research and teaching.

Centre for Disruptive Photonic Technologies

CDPT hosts more than 30 staff and Ph.D. students from all over the world. The Centre has seven international collaborators and five local collaborators, including partners from the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) in Singapore.

As a project leader, I develop the center’s near-field research agenda. I’m engaged in the scattering scanning near-field optical microscopy (s-SNOM) in the mid-infrared and visible range. Modern facilities allow me and my fellow researchers to carry out both fabrication and optical characterization of nanodevices with a spatial resolution down to 10 nm. The Centre has given us an exceptional opportunity for professional development in a high-risk, high-return research environment. We instantly bonded as a team—working together to develop cutting-edge photonic technologies.

A large, modern facility, CDPT is located in a two-story laboratory wing of the school of physical and mathematical sciences building. To date the center is made up of office space and four research laboratories: the quantum nanophotonics lab, the ultrafast laser lab, the near-field lab and the nanofabrication lab (our cleanroom). In July, CDPT will launch three more laboratories devoted to infrared, terahertz and microwave photonics. We have about 10 active research projects, including switchable metamaterials, spasers, graphene plasmonics, topological insulators, nanofiber devices and quantum plasmonics.

At least once per week, CDPT staff and students meet to share their research progress and highlight recently published papers. Staff and students are encouraged to think forward and explore the frontiers of photonics research.

CDPT is a part of the future Photonics Institute (TPI)—an ambitious project that combines the efforts of researchers at ORC and NTU. Professor Zheludev is director of the CDPT and simultaneously serves as deputy director at ORC. The TPI partnership will be located in both countries.

In addition to exceptional research opportunities, NTU provides many extracurricular cultural activities. I was fortunate to join the university string orchestra as a violin player. I also had the opportunity to participate in pottery firing in the traditional Dragon Kiln.

This May, CDPT was engaged as a co-organizer of the fifth International Conference on Metamaterials, Photonic Crystals and Plasmonics, hosted by NTU. This event brought together the center’s overseas academic and industry partners and helped us coordinate our research efforts for further success.

There are so many opportunities to become a part of the global optics community. Working with the CDPT has been a rewarding experience that I would recommend to any of my colleagues.

Alexander Dubrovkin is a research fellow and project leader at the Centre for Disruptive Photonic Technologies, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.

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Photonics in Singapore: An International Experience

Alexander Dubrovkin explores the global world of optics from Singapore.

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