Plenary speakers at the ICO-26 Conference

Prepare to embark on a journey of discovery and inspiration at ICO-26 with the exceptional individuals who will lead our plenary talks. These thought leaders and researchers at the forefront of their fields will seek to ignite conversations and challenge assumptions as they share their knowledge with delegates.

Prof Anne L'Huillier

Prof Anne L’Huillier
Lund University, Sweden
Nobel Laureate, Physics 2023

The route to attosecond pulses


When an intense laser interacts with a gas of atoms, high-order harmonics are generated. In the time domain, this radiation forms a train of extremely short light pulses, of the order of 100 attoseconds. Attosecond pulses allow the study of the dynamics of electrons in atoms and molecules, using pump-probe techniques. This presentation will highlight some of the key steps of the field of attosecond science.


Anne L’Huillier is a Swedish/French researcher in attosecond science. During the first part of her career, she worked at the Commissariat à l’Energie Atomique, in Saclay, France, first as a PhD student until 1986, then as a permanent researcher until 1995. She was postdoc at Chalmers Institute of Technology, Gothenburg, Sweden in 1986, and at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles, USA in 1988. In 1995, she moved to Lund University, Sweden and became full professor in 1997.

Her research, both theoretical and experimental, is centered around high-order harmonic generation in gases and its applications, in particular in attosecond science.

She was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics 2023 together with Pierre Agostini and Ferenc Krausz for “experimental methods that generate attosecond pulses of light for the study of electron dynamics in matter”.

Prof Donna  Strickland

Prof Donna Strickland
University of Waterloo, Canada
Nobel Laureate, Physics 2018

From Nonlinear Optics to High-Intensity Laser Physics


The laser increased the intensity of light that can be generated by orders of magnitude and thus brought about nonlinear optical interactions with matter. Chirped pulse amplification, also known as CPA, changed the intensity level by a few more orders of magnitude and helped usher in a new type of laser-matter interaction that is referred to as high-intensity laser physics. In this talk, I will discuss the differences between nonlinear optics and high-intensity laser physics. The development of CPA and why short, intense laser pulses can cut transparent material will also be included. I will also discuss future applications.


Donna Strickland is a professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Waterloo, Canada, and is one of the recipients of the Nobel Prize in Physics 2018 for developing chirped pulse amplification with Gérard Mourou, her PhD supervisor at the time. They published this Nobel-winning research in 1985 when Strickland was a PhD student at the University of Rochester in New York state. Together they paved the way toward the most intense laser pulses ever created.

Strickland was a research associate at the National Research Council Canada, a physicist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and a member of technical staff at Princeton University. In 1997, she joined the University of Waterloo, where her ultrafast laser group develops high-intensity laser systems for nonlinear optics investigations.

Strickland was named a Companion of the Order of Canada. She is a recipient of a Sloan Research Fellowship, a Premier’s Research Excellence Award, and a Cottrell Scholar Award. She served as the president of the Optical Society (OSA) in 2013. She is a fellow of OSA and SPIE, the Royal Society of Canada and the Royal Society. She is an honorary fellow of the Canadian Academy of Engineering as well as the Institute of Physics. She is an international member of the US National Academy of Science.

Strickland earned a PhD in optics from the University of Rochester and a B.Eng. from McMaster University.

Prof Carlos Hernández-García

Prof Carlos Hernández-García
University of Salamanca, Spain
Recipient of the ICO Award 2023

Structured attosecond pulses to probe ultrafast matter dynamics


The development of structured ultrafast laser sources is a key ingredient to advance our knowledge about the fundamental dynamics of electronic and spin processes in matter. It is widely recognized the relevance of ultrafast sources structured in their spin angular momentum (associated to the polarization of light) and orbital angular momentum (associated with the transverse phase profile, or vorticity of a light beam) to study chiral systems and magnetic materials in their fundamental temporal and spatial scales. In the last decade, the possibility to generate structured ultrafast laser pulses in the shortest time scales known, as attosecond pulses, has triggered substantial developments in nonlinear optics. In particular, thanks to the highly nonlinear process of high harmonic generation, where an intense infrared driving beam is up-converted into the EUV extreme-ultraviolet/soft x-rays, structured attosecond pulses can be nowadays obtained.

In this talk we will review several works that have boosted the field of attosecond structured pulses during the last decade. We will focus not only on the ability to tailor the angular momentum properties of attosecond pulses, but also on how through the topology of the EUV/soft x-ray pulses we can retrieve information about ultrafast electronic dynamics of matter.


Prof Carlos Hernández-García is an Associate Professor at the University of Salamanca in Spain. He obtained his PhD in Physics in 2013. After a Marie Sklodowska Curie postdoctoral stay at JILA, University of Colorado at Boulder, USA, he returned to the University of Salamanca where he leads the Unit on Structured Light and Matter (LUMES) and the ERC Starting Grant project ATTOSTRUCTURA. His work focuses on the generation and applications of structured laser pulses, with durations in the attosecond timescale. Together with his colleagues and collaborators, he has designed theoretical tools to understand and combine quantum simulations with highly non-linear strong-field processes.

He is the co-author of >70 peer-reviewed publications. He is also the recipient of the Fresnel Prize 2019, the IUPAP Young Scientist Prize 2021, and the ICO Prize 2023.

Prof Mikael_Rechtsman

Prof Mikael Rechtsman
Penn State University, USA
Recipient of ICO Award 2018

How to make photons feel magnetic fields, and implications thereof


When electrons moving in a two-dimensional plane are subject to an out-of-plane magnetic field they move in circles called cyclotron orbits as a result of the Lorentz force. Treated quantum mechanically, these orbits become quantized like the orbitals of an atom, forming highly degenerate states called Landau levels. When the electrons interact strongly with one another, this high degeneracy leads to fascinating new physics such as the fractional quantum Hall effect.

In this talk, I will show how we made photons ‘feel’ a magnetic field and thus form Landau levels in a photonic crystal, despite the fact that photons carry no charge and thus cannot experience the Lorentz force. This increases the strength of interaction between light and matter, which has implications in quantum optics and integrated photonics. Time permitting, I will discuss another proposal for increasing light-matter coupling, namely using photonic Chern insulator edge states for wide-bandwidth slow light.


Mikael Rechtsman is a professor of physics at Penn State University in the United States.  He has worked on a range of topics in nonlinear optics and topological photonics.  His work has been recognized with the young investigator award of the US office of naval research, the Packard and Sloan foundation fellowships and the ICO prize, and he has been named a Clarivate Analytics highly cited researcher for the past three years.

Carlos A. Ríos Ocampo

Prof Carlos A. Ríos Ocampo
University of Maryland, College Park, USA
Recipient of IUPAP Medal 2023

Programmable photonics based on phase-change materials


Chalcogenide phase-change materials (PCMs) have emerged as promising platform to modulate light in a nonvolatile manner—a reversible switching between their stable amorphous and crystalline states leads to an impressive refractive index contrast (∆n and ∆k ~1-3). The last decade has seen a growing interest in such a combination of properties for a variety of nonvolatile programmable devices, such as metasurfaces, tunable filters, phase/amplitude modulators, color pixels, thermal camouflage, photonic memories/computing, plasmonics, etc, demonstrating an outstanding versatility and integration. Current efforts in this new, fast-growing field focus on the development of new alloys with better cyclability, optical contrast, and tailorable transparency windows; the integration to PCMs to various optoelectronic platforms (e.g. CMOS); and exploiting all the properties in all sorts of optoelectronic applications. In this talk, I will talk about the fundamental principles behind PCMs, the state-of-the-art, and the most pressing challenges.


Carlos A. Ríos Ocampo is an Assistant Professor at the University of Maryland, College Park, where he has led the Photonic Materials & Devices groups since 2021. Before joining UMD, Carlos was a Postdoctoral Associate at MIT, received a DPhil (PhD) degree in 2017 from the University of Oxford (UK), an MSc degree in Optics and Photonics in 2013 from the KIT (Germany), and a BSc in Physics in 2010 from the University of Antioquia (Colombia). Carlos’s scientific interests focus on studying and developing new on-chip technologies driven by the synergy between nanomaterials and photonics.

Prof Mahdy Rahman Chowdhury

Associate Prof Dr Mahdy Rahman Chowdhury
North South University, Bangladesh
Winner of the ICO Galileo Galilei Medal Award 2023

Optical and Quantum Manipulation from Microscopic to Large Scale using Light and Matter Waves: Recent Observations of Counterintuitive Forces


Optical or quantum mechanical manipulation means controlling the movement of any object using light or matter waves. Usually, light or matter waves push a small object towards its direction of propagation. Though a huge number of investigations have been conducted on optical trapping of biological and non-biological nanoparticles or atoms using light beams and two Nobel prizes have already been awarded in this area (1997 and 2018), controlling the movement of such objects beyond trapping is quite new. Scientists are now also trying to pull an object towards the light or matter wave source or move it towards the left or right side of the direction of wave propagation, which are called tractor beam effect and lateral force respectively. This talk will highlight my team’s recent works for such counterintuitive manipulations using both light beams and matter waves. We have already shown some meta-surfaces, which support optical pulling, pushing and lateral force in a single optical set-up to sort distinct types of small particles. In addition, we have also proposed the application of optical manipulations for very large objects such as solar or light sails using metamaterial absorbers instead of conventional reflectors to control the movement of heavy objects such as satellites and spacecrafts. Notably, though a few of such manipulations have been experimentally verified for small particles using light beams, no experiment has been conducted to move an atom or molecule applying matter waves. We have recently shown quantum mechanical lateral force on an atom theoretically and still we are investigating other types of quantum manipulations using matter waves instead of light beam. Such investigations, from quantum to very large-scale using matter wave and light beam, may open a completely new dimension in the areas of physics, chemistry, the semiconductor industry, medical science, space technology and so on.


Dr Mahdy Rahman Chowdhury is an Associate Professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) (full-time) and the Department of Mathematics and Physics (part-time) at North South University (NSU) in Dhaka, Bangladesh. NSU is both a top university and the country’s first private university.

Dr Mahdy received his BSc in Electrical and Electronic Engineering from the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology in 2011. After completing his PhD in Photonics under his supervisor Prof Qiu Cheng Wei from the ECE Department at the National University of Singapore, he joined NSU in 2017 as an Assistant Professor. He was promoted to Associate Professor in 2019. After being awarded a TWAS Research Grant, Dr Mahdy established the NSU Optics Lab in 2018, where he supervises four different research groups: optics, quantum mechanics, quantum computing and AI (machine and deep learning).   

He played a vital role in popularizing quantum computing and optics in Bangladesh. During the Covid-19 lockdown period and later, as a sole instructor he conducted four online courses for all Bangladeshi university students and faculty members (including professors) to teach quantum mechanics and computing, optics and photonics, and engineering mathematics. These courses played a pivotal role in starting modern research areas in quantum and optical theories in Bangladesh, including quantum manipulation and computing. He established the Mahdy Research Academy in 2023, which is open for all Bangladeshi university students and faculties to learn demanding research topics and courses in modern science.

Although legislation prohibits private universities in Bangladesh, such as NSU, from offering PhD degrees, Dr Mahdy has published 52 peer-reviewed articles in leading international journal, including Nature Publishing Group’s Light: Science & Applications, ACS Nano, Computers in Biology & Medicine, and Journal of Physical Chemistry C. He has also written a textbook on Electromagnetics. Many students and research analysts at his research lab are pursuing PhDs with full scholarships at reputed universities such as Cornell University and Johns Hopkins University after co-publishing articles with him.

Recently, Dr Mahdy won the international ICO Galileo Galilei Medal Award. He is the first Bangladeshi researcher to receive this award. He received the NSU Research Excellence Award in 2021 and 2023 and was awarded the UGC Gold Medal Award in 2018, which is presented by the President of Bangladesh.

Prof Malik Maaza

Prof Malik Maaza
University of South Africa and National Research Foundation of South Africa
Winner of the ICO Galileo Galilei Medal Award 2018

Photonics at the nano-scale: Multi-disciplinarity & Frontier science


While photonics has been established among the most multi-disciplinary scientific fields both from fundamental and technological perspectives, nanophotonics has extended further such a frontier especially within the area of nanosciences. Among such a set of breakthroughs, size and shape governed physical phenomena. This includes Mott’s first-order phase transition in thermochromic VO2 nano-coatings and ultrafast optoelectronic nan-gating [1-2], Maxwell’s concept of nanofluids with enhanced thermal conductivity as a novel generation of heat transfer for energy efficiency [3-4].

Likewise, resonant nanophotonics validated the trapping of cold neutrons wavepackets with a time precision within the picosecond regime advancing the neutron life-time considerations in liaison with the Cabiddo-Maskawa-Kobayashi matrix, and hence its relation to the cosmological standard model considerations [5-6].


[1]. Phase transition in a single VO2 nano-crystal: Femtosecond tunable optoelectronic nano-gating Maaza, et al, Journal of Nanoparticle Research, 16(5), 2397 (2014) / 10.1007/s11051-014-2397-z

[2]. Thermal induced tunability of surface plasmon resonance in Au-VO2 nanophotonics M. Maaza et al, Optics Communications, 254(1-3), pp.188–19510.1016 (2005) /j.optcom.2004.08.056

[3]. “Remarkable thermal conductivity enhancement in Ag-decorated graphene nanocomposites based nanofluid by laser liquid solid interaction in ethylene glycol”

[4]. “Thermal conductivity enhancement in gold decorated graphene nanosheets in ethylene glycol based nanofluid”

[5]. The trapping of neutrons in Fabry–Pérot nano-structures and potential applications for cold neutron lifetime investigations, M. Maaza, et al, Journal of Neutron Research, -1 (2023) 1–16.

[6] Nano-structured Fabry-Pérot resonators in neutron optics & tunneling of neutron wave-particles, M.Maaza et al, Physics Reports 2012, 514(5), pp. 177–198(2012) 10.1016/j.physrep.2012.01.00


Prof Malik Maaza is a native of North Africa. He holds a PhD from the University of Paris-VI, and is the current incumbent of the UNESCO UNISA-ITLABS-NRF Africa Chair in Nanosciences and Nanotechnologies in South Africa.

He is joint staff of the University of South Africa and the National Research Foundation of South Africa. His H-index is about 98 and i10 =466 with total citations above 29 000.

He is a fellow of various academies, including the African Academy of Science, the European Academy of Arts & Sciences, the National Academy of Science of India, the Islamic Academy of Sciences, the Royal Society of Chemistry in London, and the New York Academy of Sciences.

Prof Maaza has been bestowed several awards and accolades. Among these are the African Union Nkwame Nkrumah award for Excellence in Science and Technology, the International Commission for Optics (ICO) Galileo Galilei award, the J. Vasconcelos award for education by the World Cultural Council in Hong Kong and, recently, the Khawarizmi International award.

Prof Maaza has been the architect behind several continental and national ongoing platforms, including the African Laser Centre (ALC), the African Materials Research Society (AMRS), the African Light Source (AfLS), the Nanosciences African Network (NANOAFNET), the National Laser Centre (NLC) and the UNESCO-UNISA Africa Chair in Nanosciences/Nanotechnology, among others.

Prof Chao Zuo

Prof Chao Zuo
Nanjing University of Science and Technology, China
Recipient of IUPAP Medal 2022

Computational phase imaging for label-free 3D microscopy:noninterferometic phase retrieval and intensity diffraction tomography


Nowadays, fluorescence microscopy has made the leap from 2D to 3D or even 4D (xyz+t) imaging. On the other hand, Zernike phase contrast microscopy, which was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1953, has become the standard feature for modern biological microscopy, but is still limited to 2D imaging. Currently, life science research urgently needs a new “label-free 3D microscopy” mode that complements confocal/two-photon/super-resolution 3D fluorescence microscopy technology to meet the needs of rapid, high-resolution, long-term imaging of live cells in 3D.

In this talk, we will present some of our research progress in “noninterferometic” intensity diffraction tomography, including: quantitative phase imaging and diffraction tomography based on transport of intensity and Fourier ptychography. Our results highlight a new era in which strict coherence and interferometry are no longer prerequisites for quantitative phase imaging and diffraction tomography, paving the way toward new generation label-free three-dimensional microscopy, with applications in all branches of biomedicine.


Dr Chao Zuo is a professor in optical engineering at Nanjing University of Science and Technology (NJUST), China. He leads the Smart Computational Imaging Laboratory (SCILab) at the School of Electronic and Optical Engineering, NJUST, and is also the founder and director of the Smart Computational Imaging Research Institute of NJUST. He has long been engaged in the development of novel Computational Optical Imaging and Measurement technologies, with a focus on Phase Measuring Imaging Metrology.

He has published > 200 peer-reviewed articles with over 15,000 citations. These researches have been featured on journal cover (including Light, Optica, LPR, PhotoniX, AP, etc.) over 40 times. He currently serves as an Associate Editor of PhotoniX, Optics and Lasers in Engineering, IEEE Transaction on Computational Imaging, Microwave and Optical Technology Letters, and Advanced Devices & Instrumentation. He is a Fellow of SPIE | Optica | IOP, and listed as a Clarivate Highly Cited Researcher.

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Prof Juan Yin

Prof Juan Yin (印娟)
University of Science and Technology of China
Recipient of the NNSF Excellent Youth Science Fund

Space-based Quantum Physics Experiments


Free-space quantum communication with satellites opens a promising avenue for global secure quantum network and large-scale test of quantum foundations. Micius Quantum Science Satellite was launched in August 2016. Through these years of efforts, we have achieved many quantum experiments at space scale. Using the satellite as a relay, intercontinental quantum communication between China and Europe at locations separated by 7 600 km has also been demonstrated. However, in order to realize the truly global quantum communication, there are still many difficulties and technical challenges to be pushed in the future.

In this talk, we will introduce some of our efforts towards a practical space-ground integrated quantum communication network, such as quantum constellation with LEO nano-satellite, and the MEO/GEO quantum satellite. With the help of high-orbit quantum satellites, we may also conduct research on high-precision optical frequency standards and quantum effects in gravitational fields.


Juan Yin is an esteemed professor of experimental physics at USTC. She earned her PhD in 2011 and has dedicated herself to the experimental study of long-distance entanglement-based quantum physics for many years.

With over 50 publications in international journals such as Nature, Science, and PRL, her research has garnered significant recognition. Her contributions have been featured three times in Nature’s annual highlights as ‘Features of the Year’ (2012) and ‘The science events that shaped the year’ (2016 and 2017). Additionally, her work has been honoured thrice as ‘The Top Ten Annual Scientific and Technological Progresses in China’ by the academicians of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) and the Chinese Academy of Engineering (CAE).

Among her accolades, Prof Yin has been recognized with the Shanghai Rising-star of Science and Technology award, the Shanghai Women’s Innovation Award, and the Newcomb Cleveland Award from the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). She has also been honoured with the Outstanding Scientific and Technological Achievement Award (Collective) by the CAS.

As the Chief Designer of the payloads on the Micius quantum satellite, she continues to make groundbreaking contributions to the field of quantum physics.

Prof Dr Gerd Leuchs

Prof Dr Gerd Leuchs
Max Planck Institute for the Science of Light, Germany
President of Optica

Field quantization from the view point of classical optics


Quantum optics is about the quantized excitations ‘living’ in the spatio-temporal modes of the light field as determined by classical optics, i.e. by Maxwell’s equations. Here we will review how the quantum properties of light emerge starting from Maxwell’s equations and taking into account experimental observations leading almost effortless to quantization using intuition from classical optics.


Gerd Leuchs studied physics at the Universities of Cologne and Munich. His PhD-thesis dealt with the fine structure splitting of sodium Rydberg atoms. He received the Habilitation degree at the University of Munich on multiphoton processes in atoms.

After stays in the USA and Switzerland, Gerd Leuchs became full professor of physics at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg in Germany. Since 2009 he was director at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Light and since 2011 he is professor adjunct at the University of Ottawa.

He is member of the German and the Russian Academy of Sciences and holds honorary degrees from Danish Technical University and St. Petersburg State University.

He won the 2005 Quantum Electronics and Optics Prize of the European Physical Society and the 2018 Herbert Walther Prize, a joint award by Optica (formerly OSA) and DPG. In 2012 he was awarded the Cross of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany and in 2018 he was appointed a member of Bavaria’s Maximilian Order.

He is a fellow of the European Optical Society, of Optica, and of the Chinese Optical Society. He is also the 2024 president of Optica.

His research spans the whole range from classical to quantum optics, with emphasis on the limits of focusing, on photon-atom-coupling and on quantum noise reduction of light.

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