All posts by Harald Schwefel

ICO prize extension and newsletter

The most recent issue of the International Commission for Optics (ICO) Newsletter has been published on the official ICO website and it can be downloaded here.

Also, the deadline for presenting candidates to the ICO prize has been extended till June 15th. More information can be found here.

Note also that the next General Assembly of the ICO will take place during the ICO-25/OWLS-16 Worldwide Congress that will be celebrating Dresden (Germany) 5-9 next September.

For more details on the Dresden meeting please contact Frederique Vanholsbeeck at [email protected]

International Day of Light Activities (May 1 & 14)

Please find information below about exciting UNESCO International Day of Light activities in Auckland!


1st May International Day of Light Science Fair at MOTAT

Scientists from the University of Auckland will be hosting a range of activities to celebrate the International Day of Light at MOTAT from 10 am on the 1st of May. There will be bottle rockets, power generators and other interactives suitable for the whole family. See MOTAT in a new light using our camera obscura, or, if you’re feeling very brave, come hold a piece of our star in your hands. Come to check out our activities or just to chat with some scientists in your own backyard about light and lasers, we look forward to seeing you at MOTAT.


14th May International Day of Light Science Fair at Papakura Museum

Come to Papakura Museum to celebrate the International Day of Light from 10 am on the 14th of May. There will be power generators, diffraction glasses, and other interactives suitable for the whole family. Come see the museum in an entirely new light using our camera obscura, or just have a chat with one of our friendly scientist volunteers, we look forward to seeing you on the 14th.

We’ve got a full house of volunteers for this Sunday, but if you want to come to Papakura on Saturday the 14th please email Andy Wang at [email protected]

Congratulations to Samuel Esan!

Optica Foundation recently awarded Ayomikun (Sam) Esan, one of our PhD students in Auckland, the inaugural Amplify Scholarship for Black Scholars in order to support the growth of a global network of Black scientists in optics and photonics. Amongst a pool of candidates from over 20 countries, Sam was among the 15 students chosen for this award. The scholarship award received support from Thorlabs, Meta, Federico Capasso, Harvard University; Corning Incorporated, IPG Photonics Corporation, and other contributors.

Congratulations Sam!

Our New Mural


Science engagement through street art is a fairly common phenomenon around Dunedin, if you’re talking about natural sciences. Hoiho (yellow-eyed penguins), karearea (NZ falcon), kea, rāpoka (sea lions), toroa (albatross) and more dot walls, bus shelters, and various other flat surfaces around the city.

But on the 31st of January this year, the Dodd-Walls Centre, the Dunedin Street Art Trust, and Otago Museum presented Aotearoa New Zealand with its first ever mural where street art meets photonics.

The nation’s first ever light-reactive mural was produced by local artist Bruce Mahalski and has been in the works for over three years. Like other street art around the city, this piece also features tāoka species… but only ones associated with night.

The flower in the foreground is Te Pua o te Rēinga or Waewae Atua (depending on iwi affiliation). It is the only fully parasitic flowering plant endemic to New Zealand. Also known as a wood rose or Dactylanthus taylorii, it was previously pollinated at night by pekapeka – the NZ lesser short-tailed bats – who fed on their nectar. However, the plant is now listed as nationally vulnerable, as it is susceptible to browsing by introduced predators, who also threaten its natural pollinators.

Bruce’s original proposal thus also included a rendering of the pekapeka in flight above the flower. However, with the advent of Covid-19 in 2020, the owners of the site expressed concern about lingering negative connotations the public might associate with bats… if only they could foresee New Zealanders electing one as Te Manu Rongonui o Te Tau/Bird of the Year before the mural was even complete!

So the pekapeka was swapped for a ruru, our native owls. Flying alongside it are several examples of NZ lepidoptera – butterflies and moths, while on the ground next to the flower is a weta – all of which make for a tasty kai for the ruru.

The background scenery evokes Hereweka or Harbour Cone on the Otago peninsula on a cloudless night near a full moon. Te Ikaroa, or the Milky Way, crosses the sky. It is a lovely mural by day.

And at night the mural takes on a special effect, as the near-UV lights installed specifically for this project come on and excite the electrons in the special paint that Bruce used to highlight various aspects of this scene. To Centre members, this effect is well known and understood but to the average passer-by, perhaps waiting at the Dunedin central bus hub for their ride home, it presents an opportunity to engage with photonics in a context and in a location that is unexpected, and delightful.

If you find yourself in the area, particularly this winter, when it gets dark at a more reasonable hour, be sure to take the opportunity to check it out and use it to start a conversation – because science outreach and engagement can happen anywhere!

Hopefully the mural will be added to Dunedin’s street art tours that run at Orange – 

Jessa Barder

Postdoctoral Fellow in Theoretical Quantum Physics

A Postdoctoral Research Fellow position in Theoretical Quantum Physics is available in the Dodd-Walls Centre at the Department of Physics. The position is in the group of the Centre’s Director, Professor David Hutchinson, and will support the research programme of the group.

Applications will close on Thursday 27 January 2022. To apply please follow the link below to submit your application (with CV and cover letter).

Paper in Science

Today a paper appeared in Science co-authored by Amita and Niels. In this paper they report on beautiful experiments conducted in their lab on the 3rd floor in which they demonstrate a novel effect predicted 30 years ago.

One interpretation of their work is that that they were able to make some atoms go invisible! More accurately, they were able to demonstrate a suppression in light scattering from a gas due to fermionic quantum statistics.

There are already nice writeups appearing in Physics World and New Scientist, which also discuss two other experiments (from MIT and JILA-CU Boulder) that were published jointly with the Otago work.

Pauli blocking is spotted in ultracold fermionic gases

Marsden Fund Successes

Congratulations to Dodd-Walls members who secured funding in this year’s Marsden Fund round! These include:

Frederique Vanholsbeeck, “Force and light to understand the structure–function relationship of soft tissue at the microscale”.

Vincent Ng, “Ultra-Broadband Microresonator Dual-Combs in Photonic Belt Resonators”,

Maarten Hoogerland, “Photons on demand: dial-up your number”,

Jorg Frauendiener who was an AI on the Marsden Fund Council Award led by Renate Meyer on deciphering gravitational waves.

And Roger Reeves who was an AI on “Thinking outside the square! Discovering the design rules for a new class of highly-functional nanomaterials”.

Congratulations also to DWC Board Member, Jim Metson, who was an AI.

Also to Scott Parkins who is Co-PI on Maarten Hoogerland’s grant: ‘Photons on demand: dial-up your number’.

Cushla McGoverin who is AI on Fred Vanholsbeeck’ s Marsden grant: ‘Force and light to understand the structure–function relationship of soft tissue at the microscale’.

and Hinke Osinga who is also AI for the Beyond survival of the fittest: ‘Population dynamics of cyclic competition networks’.

Finally, thank you to everyone who put in an application whether successful or not. We acknowledge the amount of work involved and the disappointment when not funded.

Alex Risos and team from RisosEnterprises Ltd wins Velocity Challenge

Click here to read original story published at Auckland University

21 October 2021



“Knowledge is always the very first step for improvements” – Alex Risos, Founder and CEO of RisosEnterprises Ltd. – Future of rapid waterborne E. coli water detection is coming!

A new generation of start-up founders has been released into the world with the completion of the University of Auckland’s 2021 Velocity entrepreneurship development programme.

Winners of its business planning competition, the Velocity $100k Challenge, were announced via an online Grand Final event. The guest speaker for the evening was Sir Ian Taylor (Ngāti Kahungunu), founder of leading Computer Graphics production house Animation Research Ltd, 2019 New Zealand Innovator of the Year, and 2020 Deloitte 200 Visionary Leader of the Year.

The Velocity $100k Challenge is New Zealand’s leading student-led entrepreneurship competition, supported by the University of Auckland Business School’s Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE). Now in its 18th year, Velocity has ignited more than 164 ventures, created 950 jobs and Velocity ventures have raised more than $306 million in capital.

From 90 initial entries into the $100k Challenge, 15 teams were selected to continue and given the privilege to participate in Velocity’s LaunchPad entrepreneurship professional development programme where they received mentorship and finalised their business plan and pitch to compete for five ultimate prizes. Each winner receives a share of the $100,000 prize pool, including sponsorship of a place in the University of Auckland’s 6-month VentureLab incubator, which will begin in February.

CIE Director Darsel Keane says “Velocity is an internationally renowned programme and past participants of Velocity and VentureLab have described these programmes as life-changing. It can also be world-changing. We’ve seen past brilliant student and staff participants develop ground-breaking solutions in EdTech, AgTech, MedTech, social entrepreneurship and more. Velocity isn’t just about the winners though. Many thriving ventures have been developed by past Velocity participants who did not place in the finals, or participants have taken the entrepreneurial mindset they have developed and built careers leading innovation in existing industries. We hope all our Velocity participants will take the energy, courage and insight they have demonstrated while at university to pursue whatever makes them happiest in life”.

2021 Velocity $100k Challenge winners

RisosEnterprises – Waterborne E. coli testing is a monumental effort, prohibitively expensive and takes days to yield results. Eighty percent of New Zealanders are not only unhappy with environmental water but especially with their drinking water. RisosEnterprises is working on technology that is much faster and more accurate than any existing water testing instrumentation to date. This cuts down testing costs and reaction times to critically enable widespread testing for effective countermeasures. RisosEnterprises are creating the Waicorder (TM), a star-trek inspired water tricorder that everyone can use to sense water quality anywhere, anytime. Communities will benefit from a healthier environment and drinkable water, while private industry cuts down on production losses, especially beverage manufacturers.

PrintGig – PrintGig is passionate about creating a world where 3D printing is integrated into everyone’s daily lives and makers can make money doing what they love. PrintGig will achieve this by connecting experienced freelancers with consumers who want easily accessible and affordable 3D printing services.

Fistbump – Fistbump is a friendship service designed to help users meet like-minded people, hang out and make genuine friends. So far, Fistbump has over 300 users and has helped make over 80 friendships (in just two small launches). Fistbump is a purely platonic app that matches based on interests and personality. Users can match and chat anonymously and decide if they want to be friends. Fistbump is now expanding into coffee hangouts, events, and gamification.

Supercarbon – Supercarbon is a ground-breaking technology with sustained antimicrobial and antiviral properties and multiple applications, including electroceutical wound dressings, antiviral and antibacterial face masks, anti-pathogen air filters, and anti-ageing beauty facial devices. Supercarbon’s lead product, the HealectricCarbon wound dressing, uses microcurrents to accelerate healing in chronic and acute wounds and prevent infection. It can significantly improve patient outcomes whilst markedly decreasing healthcare costs.

Delta Waterways – Delta Waterways’ product, driven by the latest in satellite imaging and machine learning technology, significantly enhances the frequency, resolution, coverage, and accessibility of environmental monitoring data. It represents a radical paradigm shift in the monitoring of freshwater and enables a much better understanding of environmental degradation, informing policy, and driving positive change.

Acknowlegment and thanks to: The Photon Factory, Cather Simpson and MBIE

View the $100k Challenge Grand Finals programme

MBIE Grant Success for Sciences

Congratulations to the three research projects based in Geology and Physics that secured funding from the MBIE Endeavour fund and announced this week. Altogether nine Otago scientific research projects received more than $16 million, and of this Geology’s Associate Professor Chris Moy (pictured below left) secured $8.6M to explore the future potential of Fiordland’s fjords as a natural carbon storage sink. This multi-disciplinary project will be a collaboration between Ngāi Tahu, Fiordland Marine Guardians, and a team of NZ and international scientists who will explore the fjords future carbon storage potential in the face of changing fjord circulation patterns driven by generation from the Manapouri Power Station as well as climate.

Geology’s Professor Claudine Stirling (pictured below middle) has also received $1M for developing an environmental toolkit for tracing historic, current-use and emerging heavy metal pollutants which will help protect NZ’s vulnerable ecosystems, and improve sustainability of major primary-sector export industries.

Associate Professor Harald Schwefel in Physics received $1M for research into the development of space-ready radiometers, that use light to detect thermal radiation, for monitoring climate and green-house gases.

Associate Professor Frédérique Vanholsbeeck has been awarded the 2020 Hill Tinsley Medal

Associate Professor Frédérique Vanholsbeeck has been awarded the 2020 Hill Tinsley Medal by the New Zealand Association of Scientists (NZAS). The Hill Tinsley Medal is awarded for outstanding fundamental or applied research in the physical, natural or social sciences published by a scientist or scientists within 15 years of their PhD.

The citation can be found here:


Thesis submission from Magdalena Urbanska

DWC PhD student Magdalena Urbanska submitted her thesis on Optical Coherence Elastography of the Vitreous Humour recently. Vitreous humour is the gelatinous substance inside the human eye that is very difficult to assess due to its location and near-transparent properties. Most methods extract the vitreous humour to measure its properties, however, extraction can affect the collagen network thereby changing vitreous humour mechanical properties. Magda developed a method for all-optical mechanical spectroscopy of the vitreous humour. This method may one day allow the effect of different eye diseases on the vitreous humour to be assessed non-destructively.

Magda is currently working as a research assistant in Frederique Vanholsbeeck’s laboratory while she waits on the referees comments on her PhD thesis.

Paper published in Nature Communications

Dodd-Walls Centre would like to congratulate member Dr Boyang Ding for getting their paper “Bandgap control in two-dimensional semiconductors via coherent doping of plasmonic hot electrons” scheduled for publication in Nature Communications on the 15th July 2021. Dr Ding and Prof. Min Qiu (Westlake Uni. China) being corresponding authors.

This work has been partly funded by DWC’s New Ideas grant and involved many DWC members, e.g. Yu-Hui Chen (known as Stephen, former DWC member), Dr. Kai Chen and Prof. Hodgkiss’ group in VUW (DWC member) and Prof. Richard Blaikie (DWC member).

Once the paper is published, it will be available to view online at

New Zealand International Science Festival 2021

The Dodd-Walls Centre is taking part in three events at the New Zealand International Science Festival 2021


Quantum Shorts Film Festival Screening

Catch the top ten quantum-inspired short films from the 2021 Quantum Shorts Film Festival in the most immersive theatre in Dunedin!


Otago Museum and the Dodd-Walls Centre are bringing you the weird, wonderful, and stranger-than-fiction side of science with this screening of the finalists in the global Quantum Shorts Film Competition. These ’quantum-inspired stories’ are no more than five minutes in length and range from live-action to puppeteering, from dad-jokes to emotionally dramatic.


5.30pm – 7.30pm, Monday 12 July

Otago Museum

Planetarium and Beautiful Science Gallery

FREE, booking essential


Space Lasers!

Can you tell how far away the Moon is by shining a laser at it? NASA did just that as part of the Apollo moon programme! Come learn about lasers and optics and how we can use the unique nature of light to advance our understanding of the sun, the moon, the stars – including understanding the size of the whole universe and how far away everything within it is from us.


This activity is included as part of the Our Moon exhibition. The ticketing link on this page will take you to the Our Moon ticketing website. For more information about the Our Moon exhibition, click the link in the related events section below.


Children under the age of 14 must be accompanied by an adult. Children under the age of 2 are free.

11am – 4pm, Tuesday 13 July 2021 to Sunday 18 July 2021

Hanover Hall

65 Hanover Street

Dunedin Central


Book tickets


Quantum Cryptography via Satellite

As privacy concerns mount in the modern era, quantum physics leads the way in new encryption methods – learn how quantum key distribution works, compare it to other types of key-based encryption methods, and find out what happens when someone tries to “eavesdrop” on photon-based communication!


This activity is included as part of the Our Moon exhibition. The ticketing link on this page will take you to the Our Moon ticketing website.


Children under the age of 14 must be accompanied by an adult. Children under the age of 2 are free.

11am – 4pm, Tuesday 13 July 2021 to Sunday 18 July 2021

Hanover Hall

65 Hanover Street

Dunedin Central


Marsden Funding for DWC researchers

The Marsden Fund takes its name from physicist Sir Ernest Marsden (1889-1970) who made a remarkable contribution to science both in New Zealand and overseas. It is a blue skies research fund which is administered by the Royal Society/Te Apārangi. The research funded by this Fund is not subject to government’s socio-economic priorities, but is investigator initiated. The Fund supports research excellence in science, engineering and maths, social sciences and the humanities.

Competition for grants is intense, as such, Marsden is regarded as the hallmark of excellence for research in New Zealand. The Centre is thrilled to congratulate DWC researchers who have received funding in the 2020 round (for projects they are leading):

Full Marsden (Principle Investigators):
Joachim Brand – “Three atoms in a tight spot”
Miro Erkintalo – “Normal in nothing but the name: a new regime of temporal cavity solitons”
Harald Schwefel – “Dual-comb spectroscopy – resolving optical precision electronically”

Marsen Fast Start (Principle Investigators):
Laura Cobus – “Acoustic Imaging of Movement (AIM): from human tissue to underwater sensing”
Jami Shepherd – “Using light and ultrasound for quantification of hemodynamics in bone”
Dominik Vogt – “Sub-wavelength ultra-high quality Terahertz resonators for next-generation sensing technologies”
Ray Xu – “Visible frequency comb generation with fibre-based microresonators”

List of AIs (Full & Fast Start):
Mikkel Andersen, Stéphane Coen, Miro Erkintalo, Stuart Murdoch, Harald Schwefel

Further information on the projects that these researchers are involved in may be found on the Marsden Fund webpage:

DWC on RNZ Smart Talk

Listen to RNZ’s episode of Smart Talk where three experts discuss the role of photonics in measuring climate change. The  discussion was recorded as part of this years Dodd-Walls symposium.

The discussion was moderated by Kim Hill with the panel consisting of Professors Donna Stickland, Tom Baer and David Hutchinson. Donna won the Nobel Prize for Physics in 2018 for her groundbreaking work in the generation of high-intensity, ultra-short laser pulses. Tom Baer is also a laser physicist and is the Executive Director of the Stanford Photonics Research Centre. David Hutchinson is a New Zealand quantum physicist and Director of the Dodd-Walls Centre for Photonic and Quantum Technologies—one of NZ’s ten Centres of Research Excellence.

Donna and Tom were together instrumental in the establishment of the Global Environmental Measurement and Monitoring (GEMM) Network, with a node now established in New Zealand supported by the Dodd-Walls Centre.

The discussion will cover the role of the GEMM Network and what part New Zealand can play in it, but also follow Kim Hill’s free-ranging style to cover aspects of Donna’s career and other elements of interest along the way.

Successful Dodd-Walls Symposium!

Thank you to everyone who contributed to this years Dodd-Walls symposium, highlighting the cutting-edge research on photonic and quantum technologies happening in New Zealand.

In particular huge thanks to our invited speakers, who reflected on the ongoing legacies of Dan Walls and Jack Dodd through their own transformative research.

Looking forward to seeing you all again next year.
Finally, we would like to acknowledge our sponsors for their support.

2020 virtual Dodd-Walls Symposium up next week

This years Dodd-Walls Symposium will be held on the 20-22 of October.
Due to the ongoing COVID-19 situation this years symposium will be held virtually with local hubs airing selected talks and hosting social events. We look forward to hearing everyone’s latest results and connecting virtually.

Find out what is going on at the conference website:


Australian and New Zealand School in Ultracold Physics

21 to 25 January 2019 – Dunedin, New Zealand

The Australian and New Zealand School in Ultracold Physics (ANZSUP) is a one-week graduate summer school for students at Master level and beginning PhD students. When creating temperatures in the lab that are colder than outer space, the behaviour of matter is dominated by the laws of quantum mechanics. The ANZSUP summer school is aimed at providing graduate students with the relevant background in experiments and theory in the field of ultra-cold physics. This year’s school will cover the following topics:

  • Laser trapping and cooling of ultra-cold atoms
  • Atom optics
  • Magnetism in quantum gases
  • Phase space methods and stochastic differential equations
  • Quantum physics and general relativity

Lecturers from Australasia and further afield will provide mini-courses on a given topic. In addition to lectures, we plan hands-on activities including a programming workshop in the computer language Julia.