The Mildred S. Dresselhaus Lecture Series

The Dresselhaus Lecture series is named in honor of Mildred "Millie" Dresselhaus, a beloved MIT professor whose research helped unlock the mysteries of carbon, the most fundamental of organic elements—earning her the nickname “queen of carbon science.” This annual event recognizes a significant figure in science and engineering from anywhere in the world whose leadership and impact echo Millie’s life, accomplishments, and values.

2021 Mildred S. Dresselhaus Lecture

Jelena Vučković, Jensen Huang Professor in Global Leadership in the School of Engineering, Professor of Electrical Engineering, and by courtesy of Applied Physics, Stanford UniversityJelena Vučković

Jensen Huang Professor in Global Leadership in the School of Engineering; Professor of Electrical Engineering, and by courtesy of Applied Physics,  Stanford University

Inverse designed photonics: Are computers better than humans in designing photonics?

Monday, November 15, 2021
3:00 PM - 4:00 PM EST
Virtual; register to receive the Zoom link.

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ABSTRACT

Photonics—manipulation of the flow of light on a chip—has many exciting applications, including new computing and communication platforms that are faster, more compact and more energy efficient, and a variety of  sensors for medicine, autonomous vehicles, and environment. Despite great progress in photonics over the past few decades, we are nowhere near the level of integration and complexity in photonic systems that would be comparable to those of electronic circuits, which prevents use of photonics in many applications.

This lag in integration scale is in big part a result of how we traditionally design photonics: by combining building blocks from a limited library of known designs, and by manual tuning and tweaking of few parameters. Unfortunately, the resulting photonic circuits are very sensitive to errors in manufacturing and to environmental instabilities, bulky, and often inefficient.

A few micrometers long piece of fabricated silicon that acts as a compact stage of a particle accelerator and accelerates electrons by interacting them with coupled laser field. This structure can shrink linear accelerators from miles to an inch on a silicon chip.In this lecture, Vučković will show how a departure from this old fashioned approach can lead to optimal photonic designs that are much better than state of the art on many metrics (smaller, more efficient, more robust). This departure is enabled by development of inverse design approach and computer software that designs photonic systems by searching through all possible combinations of realistic parameters and geometries.

One of the most surprising results is that optimal designs are often completely different from traditional ones, and non-intuitive to photonic designers. Vučković will show how this inverse design approach can enable new functionalities for photonics, including compact particle accelerators on chip that are 10 thousand times smaller than traditional accelerators (going from miles to inch in size).

About Jelena Vučković

Jelena Vučković is the Jensen Huang Professor in Global Leadership in the School of Engineering, and Professor of Electrical Engineering and by courtesy of Applied Physics at Stanford, where she leads the Nanoscale and Quantum Photonics Lab. She is also the chair of the electrical engineering department at Stanford. She was the inaugural director of Q-FARM, the Stanford-SLAC Quantum Science and Engineering Initiative, and is affiliated with Ginzton Lab, PULSE Institute, SIMES Institute, Stanford Photonics Research Center (SPRC), SystemX Alliance, Bio-X, and Wu-Tsai Neurosciences Institute at Stanford.

Upon receiving her PhD degree from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in 2002, Vučković worked as a postdoctoral scholar at Stanford. In 2003, she joined the Stanford Electrical Engineering Faculty, first as an assistant professor (until 2008), then an associate professor (2008-2013), and finally as a professor of electrical engineering (since 2013). She has also held visiting positions at the Max Planck Institute for Quantum Optics (MPQ) in Munich, Germany (2019), at the Institute for Advanced Studies of the Technical University in Munich, Germany (2013-2018), and at the Institute for Physics of the Humboldt University in Berlin, Germany (2010-2013).

Vučković has received many awards including the James Gordon Memorial Speakership from the OSA (2020), the IET A. F. Harvey Engineering Research Prize (2019), Distinguished Scholar of the Max Planck Institute for Quantum Optics - MPQ (2019), Hans Fischer Senior Fellowship from the Institute for Advanced Studies in Munich (2013), Humboldt Prize (2010), Marko V. Jaric award for outstanding achievements in physics (2012), DARPA Young Faculty Award (2008), Chambers Faculty Scholarship at Stanford (2008), Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE in 2007), Office of Naval Research Young Investigator Award (2006), Okawa Foundation Research Grant (2006), and Frederic E. Terman Fellowship at Stanford (2003). She is a Fellow of the American Physical Society (APS), of the Optical Society of America (OSA), and of the Institute of Electronics and Electrical Engineers (IEEE).

Vučković is a member of the scientific advisory board of the Max Planck Institute for Quantum Optics – MPQ (in Munich, Germany), and was recently an advisory board member of the National Science Foundation (NSF) – Engineering Directorate, of the Ferdinand Braun Institute (in Berlin, Germany), and of SystemX at Stanford. She has also served as an advisor of several semiconductor technology companies. Currently, she is an associate editor of ACS Photonics, and a member of the editorial advisory board of the NPJ Quantum Information, APL Photonics, and Nanophotonics.

About Mildred S. Dresselhaus

Mildred DresselhausMildred "Millie" Dresselhaus was a beloved MIT professor whose research helped unlock the mysteries of carbon, the most fundamental of organic elements—earning her the nickname “queen of carbon science.” She is well-known for her work with graphene, fullerenes (also known as "buckyballs"), bismuth nanowires, and low dimensional thermoelectricity. She developed the concept of the "nanotube," a single-layer sheet of carbon atoms that is incredibly thin and yet incredibly strong.

With appointments in the Departments of Electrical Engineering and Physics, Dresselhaus was a member of the MIT faculty for 50 years. In 1985 she was honored with the title of Institute Professor, an esteemed position held by no more than 12 MIT professors at one time. A winner of numerous awards, Dresselhaus was a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the National Medal of Science, and the Kavli Prize in Nanoscience. She was inducted into the U.S. National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2014.

Dresselhaus led MIT and her field not only through her research and teaching, but with her longstanding commitment to promoting gender equity in science and engineering and a dedication to mentorship and teaching. She received a Carnegie Foundation grant in 1973 to support her efforts to encourage women to enter traditionally male dominated fields of science and engineering.

In honor of Millie, MIT.nano will host the Mildred S. Dresselhaus Lecture annually in November, the month of Millie's birthday. The event will recognize a significant figure in science and engineering from anywhere in the world whose leadership and impact echo Millie’s life, accomplishments, and values.

>>Read about previous Dresselhaus lecturers and watch their talk videos.

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