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PhD position: Flexible optical metasurfaces

Faculty of Science – Institute of Physics

Vacancy details of PhD position: Flexible optical metasurfaces
Publication date 22 March 2021
Closing date 15 May 2021
Level of education Master's degree
Hours 38 hours per week
Salary indication €2,395 to €3,061 gross per month
Vacancy number 21-191

Are you a highly motivated physicist with a strong interest in blurring the boundaries between photonics and mechanics? We are seeking an excellent and ambitious PhD candidate to carry out interdisciplinary research on flexible optical metasurfaces.

A long-standing challenge for both fundamental and applied sciences is to devise new tools to actively manipulate physical signals – such as light, sound, or motion. During the past 20 years, metamaterials have become a particularly fruitful paradigm to control light or motion in unprecedented ways. By patterning materials at a length scale much smaller than the typical interaction length in the material, metamaterials can be designed that have man-made properties that cannot be found in nature. For instance, optical metasurfaces can now redirect and pattern light beams with nm-thick layers, and mechanical metamaterials can exhibit extreme and programmable shape-changes. Yet, despite these impressive advances, metamaterials research has so far been focused on restricted sets of properties: metamaterials allow the control of either light or motion, yet never simultaneously.

In this project, you will merge optical metasurfaces and mechanical metamaterials and leverage their combined advantages to realize mechanical programming of light fields.

Merging mechanical and optical metamaterials offers tantalizing prospects. Can the large and programmable deformations of mechanical metamaterials be transferred to the scale of photonic chips? How do mechanical reconfigurations of optical arrays change the nature of light-matter interactions? How to construct a multiscale description that captures hybrid mechanical-optical properties? We anticipate that addressing these fundamental research questions will lead to a new subfield for metamaterial research, that of flexible optical metasurfaces. This research will pave the way to the grand goal of realizing on-the-fly programmable control of optical wave fronts.

What are you going to do?

You are expected to perform fundamental research to push the limit of active metamaterials.

You will:

  • develop and fabricate micron-scale kirigami metamaterials and nanophotonic optical metasurfaces in the cleanroom of the AMOLF NanoLab Amsterdam;
  • design and create mechanically-programmable active optical metasurfaces;
  • perform optical experiments with mechanical stimuli;
  • construct a multiscale hybrid mechanics/optics model to support and guide the experiments;
  • present your results in international workshops and conferences;
  • work collaboratively between two research groups;
  • take part in the teaching efforts of both groups, including supervision of Bachelor and Master students.

What do we require?

We are looking for a candidate with:

  • a creative, curious and driven nature;
  • a strong background in physics and a Master’s degree in Physics, Mathematics, Engineering, Computational Science or a related field;
  • an eagerness to learn new techniques and to combine numerical simulations, theory and experiments;
  • excellent written and oral communication skills in English.

Other skills, experiences, and documents that would benefit your application:

  • previous experience in an optics lab, mechanics lab, or cleanroom fabrication;
  • demonstrated experience with programming and modelling software (matlab, python, Comsol, Lumerical);
  • scientific publications.

Our offer

We offer a temporary contract for 38 hours per week for the duration of 4 years (initial appointment will be for a period of 18 months and after satisfactory evaluation it can be extended for a total duration of 4 years). This should lead to a dissertation (PhD thesis). We will draft an educational plan that includes attendance of courses and (international) meetings. We also expect you to assist in teaching undergraduates and Master students. 

The salary, depending on relevant experience before the beginning of the employment contract, will be €2,395 to €3,061 (scale P) gross per month, based on a full-time contract of 38 hours a week. This is exclusive 8% holiday allowance and 8.3% end-of-year bonus. A favourable tax agreement, the ‘30% ruling’, may apply to non-Dutch applicants. The Collective Labour Agreement of Dutch Universities is applicable.

Are you curious about our extensive package of secondary employment benefits like our excellent opportunities for study and development? Take a look here.


Do you have questions about this vacancy? Or do you want to know more about our organisation? Please contact:

About the Faculty of Science and the the Institute of Physics

The Faculty of Science has a student body of around 7,000, as well as 1,600 members of staff working in education, research or support services. Researchers and students at the Faculty of Science are fascinated by every aspect of how the world works, be it elementary particles, the birth of the universe or the functioning of the brain.

This four-year PhD project will be carried out jointly in the 2D Nanophotonics lab headed by Jorik van de Groep and in the Machine Materials lab headed by Corentin Coulais, within the Institute of Physic of the University of Amsterdam. Both laboratories respectively focus on photonic and mechanical metamaterials and benefit from an exceptional scientific environment, in hard and soft condensed matter, computational physics and advanced materials. The Institute of Physics is part of the Faculty of Science.

Job application

The UvA is an equal-opportunity employer. We prioritise diversity and are committed to creating an inclusive environment for everyone. We value a spirit of enquiry and perseverance, provide the space to keep asking questions, and promote a culture of curiosity and creativity.

Do you recognize yourself in the job profile? Then we look forward to receiving your application by 15 May 2021. You can apply online by using the link below. 

Please send your application as a single pdf document (please upload in the field marked 'CV') that includes:

  • a motivation letter (max 1 page) that explains why you are specifically interested in the fields of mechanical and photonic metamaterials;
  • a detailed curriculum vitae, including list of grades;
  • a pdf version of your MSc thesis (or if not finalized yet, an abstract);
  • if applicable, pdf versions of your scientific publications;
  • the name and email address of at least two referees, who will be asked to upload their recommendation letters.

Applications without a motivations letter will not be taken into consideration. However, with this motivation letter your application will receive our full attention.

No agencies please