Yi Yu, Thomas Christensen and Lars Søgaard Rishøj all become Villum Young Investigators. Picture: DTU Fotonik.

Three new Villum Young Investigators at DTU Fotonik

Physics Lasers Optics
Yi Yu, Thomas Christensen and Lars Søgaard Rishøj all receive the coveted grant from the Velux Foundations.

The Villum Young Investigator programme awards talent, cutting-edge expertise and ambitions.

“That’s three qualities I can easily ascribe to each of our three recipients,” says Head of Department at DTU Fotonik, Lars-Ulrik Aaen Andersen.

Two recipients are already employed at DTU Fotonik. The third will transfer here from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

In the following parts of the article, the recipients answer two questions about their research. 

Senior Researcher at DTU Fotonik, Yi Yu. Photo: Meng Xiong


Senior Researcher Yi Yu receives DKK 5.992.367 million for his project ‘Nanolaser based on extremely confined nonradiative state (EXTREME)’. 


What are you trying to solve with your Villum Young Investigator project?

“A fundamental problem of photonic integrated circuits, hindering their large-scale application, is that their size is orders of magnitude larger than electronic integrated circuits. This project aims to exploit a new type of optical state – an extremely confined nonradiative state - and to use such a state to construct lasers at the nanoscale to address this fundamental challenge for chip-scale computing and communication. What excites me most is that we will have the possibility of developing a new class of optoelectronic devices, which will challenge the well-accepted paradigms of conventional ones and enhance and control light-matter interaction to an unprecedented degree while allowing integration with CMOS technology. These will unlock immense opportunities for new discoveries and applications.”

What does it mean to you, to become a Villum Young Investigator?

“To me, a Villum Young Investigator grant is not only a great honour, but it can also consolidate my scientific independence and allow me to build an independent team and pursue my own research goals and ideas. I hope this will enable me to form a new research direction and establish myself as a pioneer and leading figure within these fields.”


Senior Researcher at DTU Fotonik, Lars Søgaard Rishøj.

Senior Researcher Lars Søgaard Rishøj receives DKK 5.998.752 million for his project ‘From instability to order via dissipative light matter interaction’.


What excites you most about your project? 

“In this project, I explore a new method to enhance the quality of laser beams in optical fibres, by improving the stability of beams with an unstable transverse intensity distribution. This will enable high-power fibre lasers at arbitrary wavelengths, which is desirable for applications within industrial manufacturing and biological imaging. What excites me the most about the project is that it will allow me to study light matter interactions in highly multimoded systems, and explore new fundamental power limitations.“

What does receiving this grant from the Velux Foundations mean to you?

“The grant allows me to build exciting new lab facilities at DTU Fotonik, and the 5-year duration of the grant offers me the freedom to carry out an extensive effort within an upcoming research field. On a more personal level, it will help me further establish myself within the field of nonlinear interactions between higher order modes, and attract funding for future research projects.”    


Thomas Christensen.


Thomas Christensen receives DKK 7.988.199 million for his project Symmetry-guided discovery of topological photonics.


What excites you most about your Villum Young Investigator project?

“The ability to confine optical states is central to photonic technologies, so much so that different confinement strategies define the foundations of several different research fields, such as fibre optics, photonic crystal waveguides, and plasmonics. A new paradigm for achieving this goal lies in band topology: By juxtaposing two photonic crystals with distinct bulk band topologies, confined states of light emerge at their interface. At present, however, the bulk band topology of photonic crystals remains very challenging to evaluate except in the simplest settings. In this project, I will develop new theoretical and computational tools that leverage symmetry analysis to evaluate photonic band topology efficiently and generally. I’m excited by the prospect of being able to comprehensively explore this new topological design space for photonic structures – and excited to discover what new insights band topology will bring to photonics more generally.”

"As a young researcher, it gives me the resources and freedom to pursue and focus on the questions I think matters most"
Thomas Christensen

What does it mean to you, to become a Villum Young Investigator?

“It’s of course a great honour to receive a Villum Young Investigator grant. As a young researcher, it gives me the resources and freedom to pursue and focus on the questions I think matters most in my field over an extended 5-year period – and to establish a research team and independent profile centred around these questions. On a personal level, this grant will allow me to return to Denmark – and bring my research back with me – after several years in the US.”

Thomas Christensen has been both postdoc and research scientist (present) at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). When he transfers to DTU, it is a sort of homecoming, as this is where he completed his bachelor’s programme, honours master’s programme and PhD. He did his PhD at DTU Fotonik.

This transfer is actually the second of its kind in only a year. In 2021 a Villum Young Investigator grant animated Senior Researcher Mikkel Heuck to transfer from MIT to DTU Fotonik.   

Read more about all the 2022 Villum Young Investigators