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Optics Honours

Two optics researchers share the 2015 ICO/ICTP Gallieno Denardo Prize

Rajan Jha (l) with Rim Cherif
Rajan Jha (l) with Rim Cherif

19/02/2015 - Trieste, Italy

Advances in optics and photonics have been in the spotlight at ICTP, where the annual Winter College on Optics is being held from 9 to 20 February. A high point of the activity was the award ceremony for the International Commission for Optics (ICO) and ICTP Gallieno Denardo Prize held on 18 February.

The 2015 award is shared by two researchers: Rajan Jha from India and Rim Cherif from Tunisia. The award recognizes Jha's breakthrough contributions in the modelling, design and development of high performance optical sensors and waveguides that can be applied to diverse areas ranging from environmental monitoring and precision allignment to non-invasive medical procedures. Cherif has earned the award for her achievements in the field of nonlinear optics, in particular her contributions to the design of highly nonlinear fibers for supercontinuum generation, a technique for producing broadband light sources that can be used for telecommunications and sensing devices.

Assistant Professor at Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Bhubaneswar, India, Rajan Jha says his focus is developing optical devices and sensors that can meet industrial and societal needs.  "We can fabricate sensors based on optical fibers to detect volatile organic compounds. Such sensors can be used in different areas, for example, in the food processing industry or in environmental monitoring," he says. "We are also developing nano displacement sensors, which can detect if an object is displaced even by less than a nanometer and are looking into developing optical fiber-based biomedical devices such as a non-invasive sensor for glucose detection," he adds.

This is Jha's first visit to ICTP, and he has already noted that there are several areas of overlap between his research area and the work carried out by some of the ICTP scientists. "There aren't enough groups that are working in optics-related experimental studies in India," he says, and he hopes to strengthen his field by building collaborations.

Rim Cherif, on the other hand, is no stranger to ICTP. She first came to the Centre in 2007 as a Sandwich Training Education Programme (STEP) student under the supervision of Miltcho Danailov, who is one of the organizers of the 2015 Winter College. Cherif, whose research focus is on the broad field of nonlinear optics, started out as a student of telecommunication engineering and decided to pursue research in optics when she realized that the future of telecommunications lies in fiber optics. "We can use nonlinear fiber optics for different types of applications. And because of my background, my main focus has been to use it for telecommunication technology," she says.

Now an Associate Professor in Telecommunications at the University of Tunis El Manar, Tunisia, Cherif says she wants to ensure that her students get the same opportunities to pursue research as she did. "In my country there is very little money for equipment and not so many experimental facilities," she says. "You cannot only do theory and modelling [in optics research]. You have to somehow validate your work experimentally. So we look for collaborations and apply for bilateral projects," she says. In that regard, she says ICTP's STEP fellowship--which helps PhD candidates from developing countries to enrich their doctoral studies by gaining access to ICTP's world-class research and training facilities--has been crucial for her.

The ICO/ICTP Gallieno Denardo Award recognizes researchers less than 40 years of age from a developing country who have made significant contributions to the field of optics or photonics. The recipient receives a certificate, US $1,000, and an invitation to participate in and deliver a lecture at an ICTP activity relevant to optics.

The award is named in honour of Gallieno Denardo, who coordinated optics activities at ICTP for more than twenty years.

For more details, please see the award web page