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Volume 2, 2013

Method in madness

Simon Huisman hopes to obtain his doctorate in September 2013. That is six months faster than the usual four years. “You can only excel in something if the people around you give their support and encouragement.”

Why did you start to study physics?
‘“Because I want to know what makes the world go round. I want to understand all the facts. For a long time I was in two minds whether to study theoretical physics or technical physics. As you can see, my ultimate choice was for technical physics. The real, new physics develops from observations made in the lab. Theory is of course also important, you get nowhere without analysis and interpretation, but the seed is planted in the lab.

What is your research focused on?
“I’m trying to manipulate light. For example, I try to capture light or make it travel slower. During my MSc research I studied light in orderly structures. My PhD research focuses on orderly structures with a bit of chaos now and again. Now I’m working with disorderly systems.”

But disorder is the absolute nightmare for any researcher isn’t it?
“There is some degree of irregularity or disorder in any system, however perfect it may appear to be. So it’s much better if you understand what disorder does. But yes, studying disorder is complicated and risky. But it’s that that makes it so interesting. I am balancing on the borderline of what we can do and what we know.”

All good and well, but you still have to obtain your doctorate and to do that you need results?
“I was lucky to have had so many good results in the first years of my research that I can now use them to obtain my doctorate. After consulting my supervisors we decided that I could focus on the new research line. Luckily MESA+ also offers the facilities I need to set up that research.”

You’re doing research in two different groups. Is that practical?
“The benefits far outweigh the disadvantages. For instance: I now have twice as much equipment and expertise at my disposal. And it’s always beneficial to find that not all groups work in the same way. Obviously in theory this implies more meetings and other ‘administrative burdens and social obligations’. But I’m quite self-willed and choose where to go myself.”

In 2012 you won the poster prize at Physics@FOM, the largest physics conference held in the Netherlands. This year you are presenting a poster with your younger brother. Tell me about it.
When we started to set up the new research line we searched for motivated students to work with. My brother had just started with the Complex Photonics Systems group. Naturally we gave it good thought beforehand and consulted with our supervisors. It was a privilege to work together with my brother. We know each other through and through. Communication between the two of us went smoothly. The results were better than we expected. It was a real case of - what I think is a dreadful word: synergy.”

Name: Simon Huisman (1986)
PO SITION : PhD student with the Complex Photonics Systems group, headed by Willem Vos, and the Optical Sciences group, headed by Jennifer Herek. Huisman is engaged in quantum optics. He manipulates light with structures on the wavelength scale
PREV IOU SLY: Huisman obtained his BSc (cum laude) from Twente in 2007 and his MSc in 2010 in technical physics. He conducted his graduation research at the FOM institute AMOLF and the University of Calgary in Canada. He was a guest of CERN for three months in the summer of 2008
HOBBY: Huisman is an enthusiastic ballroom dancer. He takes part in competitions and practices the sport every day ME SA+... “makes my research possible. I feel privileged to be able to make intensive use of the equipment and expertise of ME SA+”