From lightning storm to scholar

TMOS is thrilled to announce that Shridhar Manjunath, PhD student at the Department of Electronic Materials Engineering and ARC centre of excellence TMOS, Research School of Physics, Australian National University (ANU), Canberra, has been awarded a major scholarship.
Shridhar was awarded a 2022 Optics and Photonics Education Scholarship by SPIE, the international society for optics and photonics, for potential contributions to the field of optics, photonics or related field.

It is the real world application of physics that excites Shridhar, who is actively involved in outreach programs through the SPIE student chapter. He has co-organised several workshops, seminars and celebrations of International Day of Light. He serves as a student representative in the Research school of Physics.

As a child he was captivated by light and colour, and he has retained that passion. He currently works on optical sensors based on metasurfaces under the supervision of Prof. Dragomir Neshev. His research work on biosensing and gas sensing aims at developing lab-on-chip sensors for better diagnostics devices.

It was while completing internships in India as an undergrad that Shridhar’s passion for photonic was ignited. However, in 2015 there weren’t many universities that offered programs in photonics–ANU was the only university in the world with a specialised program. Having researched his options, Shridhar discovered Prof. Jagadish and Prof. Neshev were associated with ANU and knew it was the place he needed to be.

Coming from an engineer background, Shridhar takes fundamental concepts and explores how to get practical applications from them, with an emphasis on finding solutions; “I like to take a concept we already know, but explore it in such a way that we can find something new,” he says.

Shridhar’s advice to someone considering a research or academic career is to focus on your interests. “For me, my fundamental interest was light. Quantum physics might be popular right now, but is it what you’re really interested in? Try and find what you desire. If you like biology and living creatures and that intrigues you, then go towards that–follow your instinct.”

This advice has worked well for the boy who used to pose for “pictures” in lightning storms as a child. He believed the gods were taking his photo, with the subsequent rainbow proof. This innate curiosity and affinity with light and colour has stood him in good stead for his career in photonics.
“It’s what has kept me going through the years–the colours and the light.”

Since the program began, SPIE has contributed more than six million dollars in individual scholarships–a reflection of their commitment to the next generation of optical scientists and engineers around the world.
Kate Medicus, the Scholarship Committee chair, noted the accomplishments of the 2022 recipients was truly impressive, and that SPIE looked forward to seeing them grow into their careers in optics and photonics.

About the author/s

Samara Thorn

As the Engagement Manager at TMOS, the ARC Centre of Excellence for Transformative Meta-Optical Systems, my role is to help researchers communicate their science and help businesses understand how the new field of meta-optics will transform their industry and where future opportunities for growth li ... more

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