Sonakshi Arora

Sonakshi Arora

Masters degree in Physics from Freie Univeristät Berlin, Germany. Currently: PhD candidate in the group of Kobus Kuipers, TU Delft.

My master project was concerned with probing excitons in two-dimensional semiconductors that strongly interact with the environment around them. During this time, I designed a cryostat that allowed injection of gas molecules directly on the surface of these materials and undertook experiments at cryogenic temperatures to explore the interactions of the out-of-plane defect bound states. 

As luck would have it, I met a colleague who told me about the Casimir Open Days event. This turned out to be a great opportunity where I got an interview with my now PI. In my current project, I investigate non-trivial topological fields in two dimensional photonics crystals. With our near-field microscope I obtain amplitude, phase and polarization information to investigate light-matter interactions at the sub-wavelength limit. The project involves performing experiments, undertaking numerical simulations and fabricating novel devices with exciting properties.

Casimir research school provides a variety of courses ranging from electronics for physicists to entrepreneurship for budding entrepreneurs to even animated science.  In addition to these courses, it provides the opportunity to interact with fellow colleagues within the scope of my current field as well as outside for novel collaborations. 

Willem Tromp

Willem Tromp

MSc degree in Experimental Physics from Leiden University, Currently PhD at Leiden University in Milan Allan’s group

I entered Milan’s group as a master student looking to do my thesis work. I found myself in a young and energetic group studying some of the great mysteries of condensed matter physics. The project was a lot of fun, and when I found out that there was an opportunity for me to do my PhD here, I decided to stay.

We study what happens when the interaction between electrons play an important role in the properties of a material. We do this using STM, which can probe the properties of materials at the atomic level. One of the challenges is not only to do these measurements with a high accuracy, but also how to relate them to other spectroscopic probes, such as ARPES and quantum oscillations. Trying to put all these pieces from different techniques together is what my project is about. We started by seeing how the comparison works in a material which has some of the interesting interactions but is still relatively easy to understand. Now we try to apply what we’ve learned to a high-Tc superconductor. We do this as part of a collaboration across the Netherlands, including people doing ARPES, transport and theory. Part of the fun is that I get to regularly discuss interesting physics with all these people coming from different angles and having different backgrounds.

Casimir is a great help in this. Since I’m not only heavily invested in STM, but also try to understand data and results from a host of techniques, it’s a huge help to have a large, approachable network of people with knowledge about these various techniques. They also provide great courses and activities to broaden and hone my skills.

Brecht Simon

Brecht Simon

MSc degree in Experimental Physics from Leiden University. Currently: PhD in the group of Toeno van der Sar, TU Delft.

I obtained my master’s degree from Leiden University after working on two projects that characterized magnetic nanowires in the Magnetism and Superconducting materials group in Leiden and a project in Regensburg to characterize devices made from superconducting van der Waals materials and carbon nanotubes.  I very much enjoyed the technical sides of these projects that entailed designing and fabricating systems that exhibit very different kinds of condensed matter physics.

I applied for my PhD project, because I learned about my current group that was just starting a new lab in Delft to study magnetic and superconducting systems using a very new technique, using a defect in the diamond lattice that is sensitive to magnetic fields. The goal of my PhD project is to probe 2D magnetism on the nanoscale. We are particularly interested in magnetic materials that can be isolated in two dimensions, such as the van der Waals materials that I studied during my master’s. 

As one of the first PhD students I also have the opportunity to build a completely new system for my project, which is the technical aspect that I was looking for in a PhD. The Casimir Research school provided help by means of courses (electronics for physicists) to improve my engineering skills, necessary for building such a new system. Casimir also provides access to social activities where you meet peers and other experts in the field. 

Yogesh Shelke

Yogesh Shelke

MSc’s degree: Chemical Engineering, Indian Institute of Technology Madras (India). Currently: PhD student at: Kraft lab, Biological and Soft Matter group, Leiden University.

I have obtained my Master's degree in Chemical Engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology Madras, Chennai, India. As a part of my masters’ thesis, I worked on the synthesis of anisotropic colloidal particles, self-assembly and self-propelling colloids.  After having built the foundation during my masters, I strongly have inculcated a desire to continue working in the field of colloids and interface science. So, I decided to do a Ph.D. for carrying out the research in this field with a vibrant and active research group.

The Casimir research school integrates scientific and social events and organizes events such as NanoFront Winter Retreat. I had a chance to attend and participate in the last event when I was a freshly joined Ph.D. student. In this event I had an opportunity to meet and interact with fellow researchers working in similar and allied fields.

Under expert guidance at Leiden University, I am developing as a researcher in the field. This enriching experience will help me in achieving my professional goals. The project also helping me gain deep knowledge and develop insights into research. After my PhD I am looking forward to get an opportunity in academia where I will be able to work on contemporary problems in this research field. The opportunity provided to me at Leiden and Casimir Research School would enable me to network with like researchers to help me realize my goals. 

Yevheniia Cheipesh

Yevheniia Cheipesh

MSc in Condensed Matter Theory and Quantum Information Theory, University of Göttingen (Germany). Currently: PhD student at: Beenakker group, Lorentz Institute, Leiden University, and Akhmerov group, Quantum Nanoscience, TU Delft.

My name is Yevheniia and I am originally from Ukraine. I have finished my master degree in the university of Goettingen in Germany specialized on the Condensed Matter Theory and Quantum Information Theory. Already then I was familiar with some works of Prof. Carlo Beenakker and Prof. Anton Akhmerov from the University of Leiden and TU Delft and found out about the Casimir Research School that gives a lot of possibilities for PhD students there. Therefore, I applied for a PhD position to both Leiden and Delft and...luckily, I was accepted to both places:) So now I am Leiden-Delft shared PhD student. I am extremely happy to have such an opportunity as it opens much bigger possibilities for cooperation and connections. I have research projects in both places which makes my PhD very challenging, active and diverse and I enjoy it a lot. The topic of my PhD is mainly connected to Majorana fermions in a perspective of quantum computing. However, I have been also involved in other topics.

Apart from my research, I benefit a lot from the courses and schools that the Casimir Research School provides. They add a studying phase to my PhD which helps me to keep broadening my knowledge and balance my PhD. I am very passionate about science and I hope to stay in academia after obtaining my PhD degree. I believe, that both Leiden and Delft Universities will give me a very good foundation for it.

Wouter Liefting

Wouter Liefting

MSc’s degree: Nanobiology, TU Delft (The Netherlands). Currently: PhD student at: Beaumont group, Bionanoscience, TU Delft

For me, a pleasant working environment and a supportive supervisor are the most important factors for a successful project. That’s why I hadn’t decided yet what I wanted to do after my studies; it depended mostly on what I encountered. Then during my master’s, I attended a course by Bertus Beaumont and enjoyed his teaching and our discussions. I decided I wanted to get to know the Beaumont group better and by doing an internship there I learned all about bacteriophages and the wonders of these nanomachines. During this internship in Bertus’ lab, I realized I had found what I was looking for and I successfully applied for a position in the same group.

Now I am studying the interaction dynamics between bacteriophages and their host cell. Bacteriophages are viruses that infect and kill bacteria. We use HILO fluorescence microscopy to follow single bacteriophages during the first step of infection: adsorption to the host cell. We hope to unravel the details of these interactions so that we can start to modify and predict the behavior of this nanosystem.

The Casimir Research School facilitates in both broadening and deepening my scientific awareness by providing interesting and relevant courses for my current research. For example, I attended a course called ‘physics of life’, but will also join a full week of programming to improve these skills.

While I like doing research a lot, I don’t know yet what I will be doing after my PhD. Since it will depend strongly on my results and experience, and since I just started my project, I will see what the future brings!

Koen Bastiaans


Master degree from Leiden University. Currently: PhD student in the group of Milan Allan, Leiden University.

Leiden is a great place, both for science and living. Being born and raised in Leiden I might be a bit influenced, but after finishing my master’s degree I still had the feeling I wasn’t completely finished here. During my master I joined the group of Milan Allan, a young and dynamic group that likes to dive into some of the big mysteries of condensed matter physics. A great place to stay for my PhD.

In the Allan lab our goal is to explore and understand new quantum states of electronic matter on the atomic scale. To do so, we use and develop novel spectroscopic-imaging scanning tunneling microscopy (SI-STM) tools to visualize the relevant quantum mechanical degrees of freedom. My project is aimed to create a noise-sensitive STM, where next to the signal we also measure the noise. It may sound controversial, but the noise contains information about the sample we study that is currently inaccessible by conventional STM techniques.

To achieve constructing these novel tools we need to combine know-how from many different fields of physics. Being part of the Casimir community is therefore extremely beneficial. Casimir enables you to easily connect to researchers within these different fields and the courses/events offered by Casimir extends this horizon even further.

Anne-Marije Zwerver


MSc degree in Applied Physics from TU Delft (the Netherlands). Currently: PhD student at QuTech, Vandersypen lab, TU Delft

The theory of quantum mechanics and its counter intuitive predictions like superposition, apparent non-locality and entanglement have fascinated me ever since I can remember. Nevertheless, when I started my master at the Delft University of Technology, I never thought I would continue in research. But, doing my master project at QuTech taught me that, even though we cannot interpret quantum mechanics fully, we can use its predictions to control individual quantum particles and thereby test and use its foundational concepts. For me it is a challenge and a great adventure to dive deeper into the quantum world and stretch up the boundaries of what we know and can do nowadays. In the group of Lieven Vandersypen at the Delft University of Technology, we use so called quantum dots, small islands of electrons, and manipulate these electrons and their spins for the purpose of quantum computation.

In this track, The Casimir Research school helps me to get in touch with different fields of science during various talks and through its low-entry activities it gets me to meet peer young scientists. Moreover, Casimir offers interesting in-depth courses, for example in quantum information processing and in electronics, to strengthen my knowledge as a researcher.

Joeri de Bruijckere


Casimir Pre-PhD track Delft. Currently: PhD student in the group of Herre van der Zant at TU Delft.

My name is Joeri de Bruijckere and I am a PhD student at TU Delft, in the group of Herre van der Zant. I did my studies here in Delft and I chose to do the Casimir pre-PhD track within the Applied Physics master, which allowed me to do three exciting research projects at different universities.

Part of the Casimir track was to write a research proposal, which granted me the funds to start a PhD in my current group on a subject that I find very interesting.  The main topic of my PhD is to study superconducting transport through molecules, for which I perform experiments to investigate the interplay between superconductivity and molecular degrees of freedom, on the scale of a single molecule.

The Casimir Research School offers various courses that help me to develop a broader set of skills, which are not only applicable during, but also after the PhD. In addition, the school organizes career related events which I find helpful for thinking about my future plans and whether to pursue an academic or industrial career.  

Nelli Bossert


MSc degree in Biology from the JMU Würzburg (Germany). Currently: PhD student in the Biophysics and Quantum Optics group, Leiden University.

During my Masters I had the possibility to gain experience with “real” biological laboratory work such as cell culture, various analysis techniques and tissue dissection at the Institute of Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine in Würzburg (Germany). Although I enjoyed the work a lot, I also enjoyed the theory and practicals of Biophysics Lectures and Fluorescence Microscopy Imaging. Thus, searching for a PhD position, these were the interests that drove me, next to my curiosity to work in a different scientific environment while still performing research on the functionality of cells. Luckily, I found a combination of these preferences at my current PhD position.    

Being a member of the Casimir Research School, I am mostly surrounded by physicists. With my biological background, I find it very interesting to learn about the divergent scientific approaches, thus expanding my own scientific skills. The Casimir Research School gives their PhD members from Leiden and Delft the opportunity to acquire additional knowledge by providing different courses and brings us all together at various events. Thereby supporting us in building a network, which will be valuable for our future career paths. 

Rebecca McKenzie

Rebecca McKenzie

Honours degree in Microbiology and Immunology from the University of Otago Dunedin New Zealand. Currently: PhD candidate in the Brouns group, Bionanosciences, TU Delft and the Tans group, Biophysics, AMOLF

Experiencing what science and research are like on the other side of the world was always an interest of mine with the aim to both enhance my skills and build my career possibilities. After completing my programme of study in NZ I thought now is the time! Strong existing collaborations between my lab in New Zealand and The Brouns lab led me to explore PhD positions provided by TU Delft. The NanoFront grant appealed to me as it provides a unique position in which the project is shared by two collaborators with different backgrounds to meet the same final goal.

Now that I am here my project aims to tackle the world wide problem of antibiotic resistance using the CRISPR-Cas bacterial immune system to target and degrade the DNA elements that enable the bacteria to form resistance. Combining both the microbiological background of the Brouns lab and the Biophysics background of the Tans lab on a NanoFront research grant I hope to visualize this defense system at work using time lapse and fluorescence microscopy.

The Casimir Research School is a great resource for all researchers involved, bringing together scientists from different  fields and backgrounds, for both social activities and a number of skill enhancing courses. Casimir becomes a community for all members that enables the formation of a large collaborative network to aid you in both your current and future research goals.

Simone Peirone


MSc degree in Theoretical Physics from the University of Trieste. Currently: PhD candidate in the Theoretical Cosmology group at Lorentz Institute, Leiden University.

After I obtained my master degree in Italy, I wanted to continue my research in Cosmology in a stimulating environment, where I could work side by side with highly qualified collaborators. This has become possible since I obtained a PhD in the Theoretical Cosmology group at Leiden University.

In this group I have the possibility to work on some of the cutting-edge topics in modern Cosmology, confident of the help I can get through discussions, collaborations and sharing of different ideas.

In particular, my research projects are focused on the study of Dark Energy and Modified Gravity models and their relation with the late time cosmological expansion. In order to do so, I have to implement sophisticated machineries which allow to solve numerically the cosmological equations of such models, in order to state their validity.

All my work has been possible also thanks to the activities, such as courses, seminars, workshops and meetings, organised by the Casimir research school. Thanks to them I can exploit the merging of the high-quality scientific resources offered by the physics department at Leiden University.

Weichun Zhang

PhD student Weichun Zhang

MSc degree in Optics from the Zhejiang University, Hangzhou (China). Obtained his PhD degree 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.

Vasco Tenner

PhD student Vasco Tenner

MSc degree Advanced Matter and Energy Physics from the Universiteit van Amsterdam and Vrije Universiteit (the Netherlands). Obtained his PhD degree 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.

Nicandro Bovenzi

PhD student Nicandro Bovenzi

MSc degree in Physics from Sapienza, University of Rome (Italy). Obtained his PhD degree 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.

Laura Restrepo Perez

PhD student Laura Restrepo Perez

MSc degree in Nanoscience and Nanotechnology from KU Leuven (Belgium) and TU Dresden (Germany). Obtained her PhD degree 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.

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). Obtained her PhD degree 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.