EECS graduate student engages in innovative nanophotonic research in Russia

EECS graduate student engages in innovative nanophotonic research in Russia

Charles Roques-Carmes, a Ph.D. candidate in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS), went to Russia to study novel applications in integrated light generation and sensing, and to learn more about building international collaborations.

At MIT, he researches light-matter interaction, nanophotonics, and machine learning under the supervision of Prof. Marin Soljačić. For his internship in Russia, Charles chose the METALAB, a pioneering group at ITMO University in St. Petersburg run by Professors Pavel Belov and Yuri Kivshar.

“My main goal was to work on a topic that could further my research interest while building upon already acquired experience during the first years of my Ph.D.,” Charles explains.

At ITMO University, he engaged in an innovative research project on designing metasurfaces (artificial materials made of nanoscale structures) that exhibit novel properties with direct applications in sensing, imaging, and light generation.

This experience proved to be more profound than he could have imagined. It didn’t stop on a single internship project but paved the way to a long-lasting collaboration between his group at MIT and ITMO University. Charles admits that this understanding of how to engage in academic research on a global scale is valuable for anyone planning a career in academia.

Charles was also enthusiastic about discovering Russia, the country he had been interested in for a long time. He says that Russian language classes at MIT and independent research in Russian poetry with Dr. Maria Khotimsky prepared him well for his MIT-Russia experience.

“Speaking the same language as the people I interacted with was key to developing genuine understanding of their past, dreams, and inspiration,” he remembers.

In addition to enjoying St. Petersburg, Russia’s second largest city and former capital, he also visited the island of Kizhi in the northeast, known for its iconic wooden churches. Charles also traveled to the east to see the thousand-year-old city of Kazan and spent several days camping with his Russian coworkers.

Charles is coming back to MIT inspired to continue his research with novel ideas developed during his stay in Russia. In addition, he feels motivated to engage in an active research exchange between MIT and ITMO University’s METALAB.

“I hope to be able to contribute to international academic projects and friendship between Russia and the U.S. thanks to the opportunity the MISTI program offered me. If my future in academia materializes, a part of it will definitely be in Russia thanks to this exceptional summer in St. Petersburg.”

Charles' paper with colleagues from ITMO University was published in Physical Review Applied, a peer-reviewed journal on applied physics, in 2021 (link).