2017 Thomas Young Medal and Prize

Professor Kishan Dholakia of the University of St Andrews for his contributions to the field of optical micromanipulation using shaped light fields in liquid, air and vacuum.

Professor Kishan Dholakia has established an internationally acknowledged and distinguished reputation for his work in the fields of optical micromanipulation and optical beam shaping including new insights into the understanding of complex light fields and their propagation.

His studies in optical trapping and manipulation of particles have used Laguerre-Gaussian beams for particle rotation and interference of such fields for controlled rotation of trapped particles and the creation of the first 3D structures in optical traps.

Furthermore, Dholakia demonstrated the first ever use of propagation-invariant light fields in optical trapping. His work in this area spawned a major worldwide activity that involved the exploitation of propagation-invariant fields, and this topic continues to thrive and flourish. His group realised passive optical sorting across an optical potential energy landscape for both particles and biological cells.

This breakthrough result gained more than 1,000 citations and has stimulated topical research into optical sorting and motion on optical landscapes.  His creativity has extended to other areas including the use of complex light fields for various biophotonics studies, including optical beam shaping to significantly enhance light sheet microscopy and transmission through turbid media.

More recently, Dholakia has developed new birefringent particle synthesis leading to original work in addressing how fast a particle might rotate in vacuum. This has shown startling new insights into particle dynamics including the fastest artificial rotation of a microparticle – up to 10 MHz. This has gained major worldwide interest and is a system well placed to answer questions of quantum vacuum friction and greatly assist in our understanding of light-matter interaction – and was recorded in the Guinness Book of World Records 2015.

Dholakia is a fellow of the Optical Society (OSA), SPIE and the Royal Society of Edinburgh. He holds the position of honorary adjunct Professor at the Centre for Optical Sciences at the University of Arizona, USA, visiting Professor at Chiba University, Japan and is Distinguished Professor of Electrical Engineering at IIT Madras in Chennai, India. He was the recipient of the R.W. Wood Prize of OSA in 2016.