The University of Southampton

Future Leaders Awards: The Prof Sir David Payne Scholarship Award Winner for 2023 - Venugopal Raskatla

Published: 8 March 2024
Venugopal Raskatla receiving his Prof Sir David Payne award from Prof Graham Reed

Two exceptionally talented PhD photonics students have been recognised for their outstanding achievements in the latest round of the annual Professor Sir David Payne Student Scholar and Team’ 96 prizes.

In total there were 9 students nominated by their supervisors and there was strong competition. There were 4 students shortlisted, and they were asked to present to a panel of judges selected from Optoelectronics Research Centre (ORC) senior staff to talk about their research, Impact and Outreach activities. Every student gave a strong presentation and answered questions from the panel. Out of the 4 students shortlisted 2 were selected for their outstanding efforts across their studies. The winners were:

Team’96 winner – Dr Meng Huang,

Professor Sir David Payne Scholar Award Winner – Venugopal Raskatla.


Professor Sir David Payne Scholar Award Winner – Venugopal Raskatla was nominated by his supervisor Professor Kevin Macdonald. Venugopal is nominated for outstanding academic performance and inspirational attitude to working in his foundational research on nonreciprocal optical coupling and synchronization phenomena in photonic metamaterial time crystals. His exceptional aptitude for mathematical modelling has already yielded six papers at major international conferences, including a keynote and two invited talks; as presenting author he claimed third place in the student paper competition at Metamaterials’2023; and has posted his first journal on arxiv, pending submission to Science Advances.  Venugopal’s work is attracting international attention in an extremely fast-moving and competitive field and has already impacted the strategic direction of nanophononics research.

Professor Kevin MacDonald said: “Venu has made an exceptionally strong start to his PhD project. He is investigating the mechanisms of spontaneous synchronization among noise-driven, linear oscillators in photonic metamaterial ‘time crystals’ and has shown that the phenomenon belongs to a novel class of ‘nonreciprocal phase transitions’: it occurs not because of nonlinearity (as in the Kuramoto model) but via nonreciprocal optical forces among the plasmonic metamolecules. His work is relevant to a much wider range of interacting many-body systems, including chemical, biological, and nanoscale matter”.

Venugopal said: “I feel privileged to be the recipient of the Prof. Sir David Payne Student Scholar Award. It motivates me to continue pushing my boundaries and striving for excellence in my PhD journey. I am grateful to my supervisors and colleagues for the unwavering support and guidance”.

The runners up for this these prizes were Tom Kelly and Rosemary Clark, well done to you both.

Professor Graham Reed, ORC Director said, “It’s a great pleasure to see our students doing inspirational work, and really making impact with their research.  It reflects the calibre or the student body, as well as the leadership of the staff, and suggests that the future of the ORC is secure.”

Launched in 2016, the annual Professor Sir David Payne Student Scholar prize rewards the best-performing first-year PhD student. It was established using a generous donation by Dr KV Reddy, founder of Pritel Ltd and supporter of the ORC, 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 reward excellence among ORC students for many years to come. The winner receives a cash prize of £3,000.  

The annual awards encourage PhD supervisors to nominate their best-performing student who has 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. 

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