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STUDENT PROFILES

Weichun Zhang

PhD student Weichun Zhang

MSc degree in Optics from the Zhejiang University, Hangzhou (China). Currently: PhD student in the Single-Molecule Optics group, Leiden University

After obtaining my master’s degree in China, I decided to seek for an international research group to continue my research. I feel excited to be a member of Single-Molecule Optics group in Leiden University and I find that it is exactly what I was looking for.

As our group’s name indicates, we investigate light-matter interaction at the single-molecule scale. The goal of my project is to enhance the fluorescence emission of single molecules by single gold nanorods. This is really a multi-disciplinary project. Since my background is physics, I have to learn a lot of chemistry, for which I collaborate with chemists and other researchers. Fortunately, I benefit a lot from the diversity of background in our group as it provides me more ways to understanding my project and the problems that I encounter. The Casimir Research School offers even more opportunities to communicate with PhD students from Leiden and Delft. I believe that the training I receive from Casimir will definitely benefit my whole life, whether I stay in the academic community or not after finishing my PhD.

Laura Restrepo Perez

PhD student Laura Restrepo Perez

MSc degree in Nanoscience and Nanotechnology from KU Leuven (Belgium) and TU Dresden (Germany). Currently: PhD student at Bionanoscience/Chirlmin Joo lab and Cees Dekker lab, TU Delft

I came to Europe all the way from Colombia to pursue my master studies as part of the Erasmus Mundus program in Nanoscience and Nanotechnology. After completing my degree, I started looking for a PhD position, but it was not easy to find a place in which physics, biology and nanoscience were so strongly connected. Luckily, dr. Chirlmin Joo and prof. dr. Cees Dekker from the Bionanoscience department of TU Delft had an idea for a very multidisciplinary and interesting project, so here I am! Now I am using solid state nanopores to develop a new technique for protein sequencing.

My project requires the combination of physics, biology and material science; so it is very important for me to discuss and collaborate with people coming from various backgrounds. Throughout the year, Casimir organizes workshops and events that allow interaction and interesting discussions with researchers from different fields. It is also a great way to learn, to keep track of the developments in other research areas and to discuss general issues about science and academia. Besides the events, Casimir also offers a variety of courses that are useful to "fill the gaps" of our previous education according to the needs that we face during our PhD project.

Vasco Tenner

PhD student Vasco Tenner

MSc degree Advanced Matter and Energy Physics from the Universiteit van Amsterdam and Vrije Universiteit (the Netherlands). Currently: PhD student in the Quantum Optics group, Leiden University

After completing masters research project in the Laserlab in Amsterdam, I decided to move to a project at another institute. I like the mix of both fundamental research, and more practical applications. In the Quantum Optics group I can combine both directions, and I can use many practical skills that I learned in my master’s program. The tight interaction with the experienced members of the Quantum Optics group helps to speed up my research.

In my PhD project I study surface plasmon lasers, which might deliver an in-plane light source for future optical circuits and information processing. I study different fundamental properties of these lasers, and I am interested in the effects of the high confinement of the surface plasmons and the extreme gain and loss in my samples.

Besides working on my project, I find it important to keep up with developments in a variety of fields. The Casimir research school provides you with the opportunity to meet young researchers from these other fields. Furthermore, I can benefit from courses that are organized by the research school to expand my knowledge.

Nandini Muthusubramanian

PhD student Nandini Muthusubramanian

MSc degree from The Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland (USA). Currently: PhD student in the Molecular Electronics and Devices group, TU Delft

Even during the second semester in my master’s program, I was actively seeking out various institutions around the world which could offer a diverse body of research in the field of nanotechnology. I realized the sheer breadth of research in TU Delft while reading literature related to my master’s thesis and envisioned being a part of this great scientific fraternity. Luckily for me, Casimir Graduate School was expanding and there were many PhD positions up for grabs; I gave it my best shot in the interviews and bingo here I am!  I am excited to be a part of the Molecular Electronics and Devices group in the department of Quantum Nanoscience, with Prof. Herre van der Zant as my supervisor. True to the spirit of my group’s name, my research focuses on studying the quantum transport properties of single molecules using the technique of mechanically controlled break junctions. I am specifically interested in studying the effect of solvent interaction on the charge transport in molecules.

My research in this direction requires a multi-disciplinary approach, and this is where the structure of Casimir Graduate School has been very helpful. The diversity of researchers from Delft and Leiden coupled with an encouraging environment to collaborate with different groups has made me reach my goals faster and has given me fresh ideas to work on. I definitely will make the most out of my PhD to assimilate the knowledge these fantastic institutions can offer, as I hold some cherished ambitions to launch my own start-up in the nanotechnology sector. I believe that the TU Delft will give me that leading edge to pursue my life’s dreams!


Nicandro Bovenzi

PhD student Nicandro Bovenzi

MSc degree in Physics from Sapienza, University of Rome (Italy). Currently: PhD student in the Theoretical Nanophysics group, Leiden University

When I decided to apply for a PhD position in theoretical physics, I was looking for a place where I could be continuously stimulated to improve my personal skills, through discussions, collaborations and sharing of different ideas. This is actually a key feature of the Nanophysics group in Leiden University, where I recently started my project about transport properties of novel materials, in order to understand and manipulate a wide range of physical phenomena, with the aim to implement new kinds of highly-efficient electronic devices.

As an additional appealing ingredient, my actual work includes a large collaboration with people in Delft: together we are combining theoretical and experimental efforts in order to get a more complete picture of our present field of research, the two-dimensional electron gas at the interface between oxide heterostructures.

I feel really glad to have the opportunity to work in this very dynamic environment, where you can meet people who conduct high-impact research. This, in combination with the fact that I can work on many different projects, I consider a meaningful step for the development of my career.

And last but not least, the events -courses, seminars, workshops, meetings- organized by Casimir allows you to exploit and take part in the merging of high-quality scientific resources offered by the physics departments at both Leiden University and Delft University of Technology.

Suzanne van Dam

Suzanne van Dam

MSc degrees in Theoretical Physics from the University of Cambridge (United Kingdom) and in Applied Physics from TU Delft (the Netherlands). Currently: PhD student in the Quantum Transport group, Ronald Hanson lab, TU Delft

Quantum mechanics is a well-established theory and its predictions have been experimentally confirmed to great detail. Nevertheless, the foundational meaning of the theory remains elusive. The apparent non-locality, the behaviour of a quantum state upon measurement, and the status of the wavefunction are subjects that still lead to a lot of debate. In my PhD I want to experimentally probe and test such foundational concepts. In the group of Ronald Hanson in the Department of Quantum Nanoscience of the TU Delft, we study the quantum mechanical behaviour of spins in diamond, over which we have an extensive experimental control. For me, this system forms a great opportunity to look at the foundations of quantum mechanics.

The Casimir Research School helps me by providing courses that help to move my PhD forward. I for example participated in the ‘Electronics for Physicists’ course that addresses the power and pitfalls of the electronics that I come across in the lab on a daily basis. I look forward to the rest of my four years as a PhD student in the Casimir School, not only to participate in more courses like this, but also to learn about and from research done by others in the School, both in Delft and in Leiden.