Australian National University, Australia
For pioneering contributions to the field of electromagnetic metamaterials including nonlinear phenomena and light localization in composite structures
Ilya Shadrivov was introduced to OSA at a critical time in his career. He started his PhD studies in Russia, his home country, and was wondering what opportunities would be available. He learned of an OSA program for students from developing countries that allowed them to travel to the United States to attend conferences. Through this program, he was able to attend the Nonlinear Guided Waves and Their Applications Conference (today called Nonlinear Photonics) in Florida. There, he met Yuri Kivshar, who offered him a PhD position after talking near his poster. Seizing this new opportunity, Ilya moved to Australia, where he has stayed ever since. Today, he still loves traveling to conferences, and his favorite part is getting to meet high-achieving and influential scientists, commenting, "It's amazing how, being in science, you actually [get to] meet Nobel Prize winners."
Ilya's mentor, Yuri, has played a considerable role in his success, sharing "he supported me and still supports me in pretty much all aspects of my career." For Ilya, choosing a great mentor is more important than the research field because a mentor can "support you in research, can help finding a job later on…and nominate you for awards and things like that. A good supervisor leads you and shows you the ways to do research, and [they] motivate you." He believes that a mentor should, first and foremost, be a source of motivation and support for students and young researchers. It is more than simply teaching and being a great scientist but guiding and coaching students through their development.
He started his career in radiophysics but now works more broadly with metamaterials and metasurfaces. Describing the field, Ilya says "there's a lot of challenges, and that's why it's also exciting because you can solve those problems that no one thought about before." Recently, the Australian Research Council awarded a project that Ilya is a part of, Transformative Meta-Optical Systems, a major "research discovery-type funding" grant. The project combines researchers from five universities and their efforts to "make big progress in optical and infrared metasurface design." He shares that there are a wealth of opportunities to improve technology using metamaterials, and these opportunities keep him motivated.
There are many challenges in this field, but Ilya is no stranger to hard work. Early on in his undergraduate career, he remembers a university dean saying, "There's no point in studying just to pass. You came to study: do it hard and do it well." This might seem harsh, but it inspired Ilya to focus and learn as much as he could during those years. He chose physics because it was regarded as the most challenging subject. Looking back now, he is happy he followed through, saying, "it helps me because, as a researcher, I can get focused on a narrow topic, but I still have a solid background that supports me." Today, he shares this advice with young scientists and advises, "another key aspect is that you have to enjoy it [so that] you are happy in your physics career."
Photo Credit: Ilya Shadrivov
Profile written by Samantha Hornback