Optoelectronics Research Centre's future photonics leaders rewarded for outstanding performance
High-performing Southampton PhD photonics students have been recognised for their excellence and achievements in the annual Professor Sir David Payne Student Scholar Award and Team ’96 Prize.
Four exceptional Optoelectronics Research Centre (ORC) PhD students were selected by a panel of judges for their outstanding efforts across their studies so far. The prestigious awards have been acknowledged by previous winners as opening doors for collaboration, boosting confidence and enhancing CVs.
The Professor Sir David Payne Student Scholar Award
Launched in 2016 and rewards the best performing first year PhD student. It was established using a generous donation by Dr KV Reddy, founder of Pritel Ltd, to celebrate Sir David’s 70th birthday and more than 50 years at the University of Southampton. Sir David began his pioneering career in photonics studying for a PhD at Southampton and the fund creates a legacy that will award excellence among ORC students for many years to come. The winner receives a cash prize of £3,000.
Sir David Payne, Director of the ORC, said: “These are our future leaders in the field of photonics that is so important to solving the world’s problems, from sustainability and wealth creation, to the quality of life. I am happy to say that our future is in safe hands with such talented students coming through.”
The annual awards encourage PhD supervisors to nominate their best performing student who have gone that extra mile – this could be recognising a range of attributes, activities and achievements that span academic endeavour, scientific excellence, and outreach and engagement.
The Professor Sir David Payne Student Scholar Award winners were:
- Kunhao Ji – PhD in Development of Novel Optical Sources and Amplifiers Based on Multimode and Multicore Fibres
- Przemyslaw Falak – PhD in Scattering Media for Reconstructive Spectrometry, Interrogation and Sensing
Due to the incredibly high quality of the nominations for this award, two students were announced as worthy winners.
Przemyslaw was recognised as an exciting new talent, joining the PhD programme with a background in chemistry and industry, and bringing fresh perspectives that enhanced the research of his group. They are sure that with the motivation he has shown in his first year, he will continue his trajectory as a rising star.
PhD supervisor, Dr Martynas Beresna said, “Przemyslaw is as an exceptionally motivated student. He has already had an oral presentation at Photonics West 2022 and has made a significant contribution to a scientific paper which is in its final stage for submission. Taking into account how challenging the environment has been in the last year, Przemyslaw’s progress has been very impressive.”
Przemyslaw Falak said, “This award recognises me as one of the best first year PhD students. This acknowledgement is the first milestone but not the only milestone I am hoping to achieve during my PhD research and future career. It has given me confidence that all my research endeavour and hard work will yield to a bright future.”
Kunhao was recognised as an outstanding student who is dealing with extremely detailed, complicated physics and conducting his own simulations to describe highly complex phenomena whilst only in the first year of his PhD. They acknowledged his immense intellectual ability, and said they had no doubt that with the competence and maturity he has shown in his first year, an exciting future in research lies ahead.
PhD supervisor, Professor David Richardson said, “Kunhao has demonstrated all the qualities that one would like to see in a young researcher: a deep commitment to his work, a very strong background in photonics, exceptional intellectual ability and all coupled with a kind and humble approach. But what is most impressive is his stunning ability to deliver on all fronts, from theory, to numerical simulations, through to complex experiments. This is very rare and he is without doubt one of the most intelligent and complete PhD candidates I have ever had in my group.”
Kunhao Ji said, “I was delighted when I heard I had won the award and hope this is the first milestone in my PhD study and future research. It is recognition of my past work and will enable me to build up my confidence and determination in my future research, establishing myself in the photonics community.”
The Team ’96 Prize
Funded by Southampton ORC alumnus Anatoly Grudinin, the prize recognises outstanding achievements by two students in the final year of their PhDs. Anatoly was at the ORC for 10 years during which time he pioneered short-pulse fibre lasers, soliton transmission systems and cladding-pumped fibre lasers as a Research Fellow and Professor. He completed his academic career by launching his fibre laser company, Fianium. The Team ’96 Prize is a tribute to a highly prolific research period at the ORC. The winners receive cash prizes of £5,000.
The Team ’96 Prize winners were:
- Senta Jantzen – PhD in Developing an Environmentally Robust Optical Storage for Aerospace
- Natsupa Taengnoi – PhD in Advanced O-band Communications Enabled by a Novel Bismuth-Doped Fibre Amplifier
As the calibre of the shortlisted candidates was incredibly high, Callum Stirling was also named as Highly Commended for the Award.
Senta was chosen by the judges for her award-worthy academic performance at an internationally recognised level, and her immense contribution to the ORC, the University and the wider international academic community by championing photonics and STEM careers, as well as working to promote equality for all.
PhD supervisor, Dr Christopher Holmes said, “Senta’s record is testament to her hard work, steadfast focus and excellent academic ability. As her primary supervisor, I could not have asked for a better or more outstanding student.”
Senta Jantzen said, “My time at the ORC has been so much more than just doing a PhD, I got to work together with brilliant minds, learn from the pioneers in the field and the whole experience shaped me as a person. Receiving the Team ’96 Award and being recognised as one of the best performing final year student means the world to me.”
Natsupa was chosen by the judges as a gifted student who is set to become an exceptional academic. They recognised her clear technical talent and her experimental work that has advanced research in the cutting-edge hollow-core fibre Airguide Photonics Programme. They also valued the work she has done to bring photonics to the public through contributions to music workshops engaging children in physics. They saw in Natsupa the talent, confidence, and drive to achieve her ambitions, and even exceed her expectations.
PhD supervisor, Professor Periklis Petropoulos said, “Natsupa is a goal-driven and practical person with a positive demeanour and bright personality who has accomplished a substantial body of work during her studies. She has been a brilliant PhD student, demonstrating great achievement and fully deserves the recognition of the Team 96 Prize.”
Natsupa said, “Receiving this award is a great milestone in my life and proves that all of the hard work and effort over the last few years has been worthwhile. I came from an electronic engineering background, so it reflects the progress I have made in understanding photonics and makes me feel that I am slowly becoming a member of the global photonics research community.”