Assistant Professor Viktar Asadchy: Teachers and supervisors have played an important role throughout my career
Viktar Asadchy, who started as an Assistant Professor in August 2022 at the Aalto University Department of Electronics and Nanoengineering, will bring expertise to the novel artificial materials research field. He has done his Doctoral studies at Aalto University and is glad to be back in Finland and Aalto.
What are you researching and why?
My main research interests are related to novel artificial materials that interact with electromagnetic waves in an unusual and predesigned manner. Such designer materials are important for a variety of applications, from communications and electronics to medicine and entertainment. Unfortunately, the number and strength of various electromagnetic phenomena in natural materials are often limited and cannot satisfy the rapidly growing needs of modern industry. We can group all these novel artificial materials for light and turn light into several categories: composites, colloids, photonic crystals, metamaterials, metasurfaces, and others. Moreover, they have already proven themselves as being highly application-oriented, yielding novel optical fibers, optical components, antenna arrays, detection schemes for biosensing, and many others.
The key aim of my field is to design novel artificial materials that were not conceived before and have great potential for applications. Specifically in my research, I attempt to address several important challenges and opportunities related to artificial electromagnetic materials. Firstly, many important electromagnetic effects obtained with designer materials are too weak. Secondly, for many applications, designer materials cannot be synthesized based on solely analytical approaches and require new AI-based solutions. Thirdly, there are still other novel effects to be discovered in designer materials.
How did you become a researcher?
Teachers and supervisors have played a crucial role throughout my career. One of my sources of inspiration was my high school physics teacher. I was captivated by his teaching methods, depth of knowledge, and the sheer interest he generated in the field of physics. Next, during my Bachelor in physics in Belarus, my professor introduced me to a very interesting and counterintuitive topic in the field of transformation optics aka electromagnetic invisibility. When I came to Aalto University to do my PhD studies in Electrical Engineering, I started with a new topic for me. I think the first time I understood that I want to become a researcher was after working with my PhD advisor Professor Sergei Tretyakov. He kind of reminded me of my teacher in high school. I also learned from him how to manage the group when the group was growing at the same time as I was advancing in my PhD studies. I was lucky because I was one of the seniors in the group and had many chances to help younger colleagues. After my PhD, I moved to Stanford University and worked as a postdoc for three and half years. There I had also another great tutor, teacher, Professor Shanhui Fan.
What have been some of the high points of your career?
I think I have had two high points or so-called revolutionary points which are the transition from high school to university and when I graduated with a PhD in Aalto University.
What are the characteristics that a researcher needs?
I think there are three components of a successful researcher. The first component is comprised of the skills. For this component, the researcher has direct control. Examples of these skills are curiosity and the “need” for self-development. A good researcher should be able to accept their own ignorance, i.e., the fact that they do not know many things and there is a big room for improvement of their knowledge. But then at the same time, a researcher should be sufficiently self-confident. Also, important skills are good basics in the field that you're working in, because if you don't have good basics, you cannot build anything on top of it. You would also need creativity, because as a researcher you need to propose something new. Another important skill is patience because researching is not just one straightforward process where you go from point A to point B. Last but not least, it is worth having good networking and presentation skills.
For the second component of a successful researcher, I would select the environment. Although we cannot decide where we are born, we can still influence our career path. This is one of the reasons why I came back to Finland. I know that the environment is very good here in terms of living, family, and education. Nevertheless, it is important to acknowledge that we have only limited control of the environment.
Finally, the third and last component which is very important is pure luck. We live in a macroscopic world with the inevitable randomness of events and we have no control over it.
What are your expectations for the future?
I think AI will be in the spotlight, affecting all the fields including my field. This process started about five years ago but will not slow down in the near future. The field of artificial electromagnetic materials is transitioning now from the fundamental to the applied phase. Currently, there are many companies exploiting such materials for real-life applications, including Thorlabs, Greenerwave, Metalenz, Metamaterial Inc. The future of the field is going to be exciting.