TMOS aims to bring diversity and equity to nano- and micro-optics

Enchanted by sciences since he was in high school, Ken Crozier hopes that the ARC Centre of Excellence TMOS (Transformative Meta-Optical Systems) will inspire the next generation of researchers, and encourage more diversity among the current cohort.

The Centre’s Deputy Director, Professor Crozier is based at the University of Melbourne, where he studied science and engineering, inspired by a former teacher.

“I remember my high school physics teacher discussing with us the West Gate Bridge collapse,” Ken recalls.

“This was a tragic event in Melbourne in 1970 that claimed dozens of lives.”

“This underscored the importance to me of the field of engineering.”

During his undergraduate years, while Ken enjoyed learning about the fundamentals of science and engineering, he found it hard to understand how they would be applied in practice.

In later years, he learned about optical devices and systems, which placed into context much of what he’d learned earlier.

“In addition, I had the good fortune to get to know more about the practice of science and engineering research via interacting with staff members at the university and during summer vacation work,” he says.

“This reinforced my interest in becoming a researcher in the field of optics and photonics.”

It’s an exciting time for nano- and micro-optics, which Ken thinks stems from two reasons.

“First, optical technologies are having a tremendous effect on our everyday lives,” he explains.

“Examples include the Internet, laser surgery, photography, displays, optical data storage and laser manufacturing.”

“Second, due to recent breakthroughs in nanofabrication from the computer chip industry, we can now control materials with exquisite precision.”

“This is in turn allowing us to make materials that have optical properties that were not available to previous generations of optics researchers.”

“Nano- and micro-optics thus represent a considerable expansion to the design toolbox for the optical engineer. So exciting optoelectronic devices become possible.”

These possibilities can stem from collaborations, be they bouncing ideas off colleagues you meet in hallways, or through Zoom and other online meetings which can spark further discussions.

Ken wanted to be involved in TMOS, because of the collaboration potential offered by assembling a world-class team of researchers.

“I am very excited about the science, education, and outreach that we will do together over the coming years,” Ken says.

While some people might think research done in universities is esoteric, in the field of optics and photonics, universities have performed pioneering work that has led to technologies that are used every day.

“Examples include the distributed feedback laser and the erbium doped optical fibre amplifier, which are both key components of the optical communications systems we use for the Internet,” Ken says.

“Another example is the vertical cavity surface emitting laser, which in addition to being used for the Internet is also used in face recognition technology in smartphones, laser printers, laser surgery and laser machining.”

“It is my hope that TMOS will develop technologies that can be added to this list.”

The TMOS leadership have set a number of other goals, including ensuring that the field is equitable, diverse, and inclusive.

Another is to make the wider Australian public aware of TMOS’ activities, and outreach will be on-going throughout its operation.

“Lastly, we aim to provide first rate education to our students and opportunities for early-career researchers,” Ken says.

“In doing so, we hope to build the human infrastructure needed to sustain Australia’s track record standing in the field of optics in the years to come.”

TMOS is hiring for 15 postdoctoral positions – closing soon!

Author: Paris Lord, Communications and Outreach Manager, ANU Energy Change Institute