2021 Mildred S. Dresselhaus Lecture: Jelena Vučković, Professor, Stanford University

Monday, November 15
3pm - 4pm

MIT.nano invites you to the 2021 Mildred S. Dresselhaus Lecture, recognizing a significant figure in science and engineering whose leadership and impact echo Millie’s life, accomplishments, and values.

Inverse designed photonics: Are computers better than humans in designing photonics?

Jelena Vučković
Professor, Stanford University

Monday, November 15, 2021
3:00 PM – 4:00 PM EST

Virtual event with livestream viewing option at MIT (10-250).

Free and open to the public.

Registration required.

Upon registering, you will receive the Zoom link to join.

About Jelena Vučković’s lecture

Photonics—manipulation of the flow of light on a chip—has many exciting applications, including new computing and communication platforms that are faster, more compact and more energy efficient, and a variety of sensors for medicine, autonomous vehicles, and environment. Despite great progress in photonics over the past few decades, we are nowhere near the level of integration and complexity in photonic systems that would be comparable to those of electronic circuits, which prevents use of photonics in many applications.

This lag in integration scale is in big part a result of how we traditionally design photonics: by combining building blocks from a limited library of known designs, and by manual tuning and tweaking of few parameters. Unfortunately, the resulting photonic circuits are very sensitive to errors in manufacturing and to environmental instabilities, bulky, and often inefficient.

In this lecture, Vučković will show how a departure from this old fashioned approach can lead to optimal photonic designs that are much better than state of the art on many metrics (smaller, more efficient, more robust). This departure is enabled by development of inverse design approach and computer software that designs photonic systems by searching through all possible combinations of realistic parameters and geometries.

One of the most surprising results is that optimal designs are often completely different from traditional ones, and non-intuitive to photonic designers. Vučković will show how this inverse design approach can enable new functionalities for photonics, including compact particle accelerators on chip that are 10,000 times smaller than traditional accelerators (going from miles to inch in size).

About Jelena Vučković

Jelena Vučković is the Jensen Huang Professor in Global Leadership in the School of Engineering; Professor of Electrical Engineering and by courtesy of Applied Physics at Stanford, where she leads the Nanoscale and Quantum Photonics Lab. She is also the chair of the electrical engineering department at Stanford. She was the inaugural director of Q-FARM, the Stanford-SLAC Quantum Science and Engineering Initiative, and is affiliated with Ginzton Lab, PULSE Institute, SIMES Institute, Stanford Photonics Research Center (SPRC), SystemX Alliance, Bio-X, and Wu-Tsai Neurosciences Institute at Stanford.


  • Date: Monday, November 15
  • Time: 3pm- 4pm