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IUPAP Young Scientist Prize in Optics 2016

January 2017 Number 110

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IUPAP Young Scientist Prize in Optics 2016

Laura Na Liu, University of Heidelberg, Germany, is this year's recipient


Laura Na Liu, Professor at the Kirchhoff Institute of Physics, University of Heidelberg, and Group Leader at the Max-Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems, Germany, is the recipient of the 2016 IUPAP Young Scientist Prize in Optics for “outstanding contributions to nano-optics, nanophotonics, nanoplasmonics, and metamaterials”.

She graduated with a BS in physics from Jilin University, China, and a MS in physics from the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. She obtained her PhD in physics with “summa cum laude” from the University of Stuttgart, Germany, in 2009. In 2010, she was post-doc at the Lawrence Berkeley Lab, University of California, Berkeley, USA. In 2011–2012 she was Texas Instruments Visiting Professor at the Electrical Engineering Department of Rice University, Houston, TX, USA. Since 2012, she is the leader of the Smart Nanoplasmonics group at the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems, Stuttgart, Germany, and in 2015 she became Full Professor at the Kirchhoff Institute of Physics of the University of Heidelberg. Her research group focuses on developing sophisticated and smart plasmonic nanostructures for gaining precise insight into cell biology and catalytic chemistry.

She has received multiple awards: between them a Chinese Government Award for outstanding students abroad in 2008. In 2012, she was awarded the Sofja Kovalevskaja Award of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, which provides young researchers with up to €1.5 million as risk capital for innovative projects at an early stage of their careers. Na Liu proposed to use nanoplasmonics to observe biological and chemical processes at the level of individual particles, by combining gold nanoparticles with DNA and observing the dynamics of chemical reactions with high-resolution microscopes. She was awarded the Elisabeth Schiemann-Kolleg Fellowship of the Max Planck Society and the Heinz Maier-Leibnitz Prize of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) in 2013. In 2014, her project “dynamic nanoplasmonics” was awarded a Starting Grant (€1.5 million) of the European Research Council (ERC). During the International Year of Light, the European Optical Society (EOS), awarded her with the Light 2015 Young Woman in Photonics Award.

Example of her work is the creation of a “nanowalker” consisting of a gold nanocylinder with DNA feet that can walk across a DNA origami platform. The movements of the nano-walker can be traced by measuring plasmon resonances in the gold nanocylinder, and the walker’s position by monitoring spectral changes resulting from the interaction with circular polarized light.

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