Silicon photonics student researcher awarded international Optica Amplify Scholarship for Black scientists, engineers
Hamidu Mbonde, a PhD student in engineering physics, is one of 15 Black students worldwide that has been awarded the prestigious Optica Amplify Scholarship.
Hamidu Mbonde has a strong appreciation for the often overlooked, but remarkable, element of light.
“Light is every day and everywhere in our life, but everybody takes it for granted; they don’t really understand it,” he said. “There is a lot of mystery…it’s something that is very simple and ordinary, but at the same time it’s something that is very complicated and extraordinary.”
His exploration of silicon photonics has seen him awarded the international Optica Amplify Scholarship. Awarded to only 15 Black university students across the world, the highly respected grant offers funding of $7,500 US, a one-year Optica Student membership, and mentorship opportunities.
While he was confident about his qualifications, Mbonde says he was surprised to achieve success in such a competitive field.
“There are scholars from all over the world…To stand out from all of these applications is something that I am proud of,” he said.
Mbonde is one of two students at a Canadian university to achieve the honour this year.
“The pool of candidates from over 20 countries was impressive. It was inspiring to review these researchers’ applications, learning more about their passion for optics, science and engineering. I am looking forward to following the careers of these exceptional young minds,” said Optica review committee member, George Okyere Dwapanyin, University of St Andrews, United Kingdom, in the press release.
Along with funding, Mbonde will gain access to mentors in the global Optica network. As he nears the final chapter of his PhD, Mbonde says he’s thrilled to connect with peers and a mentor who will help give direction and explore the array of choices ahead of him.
“The fact that it was dedicated and amplified Black scientists and engineers… it inspires more people to engage in this research area, and also, for those already in the research area, they get more confidence and more inspired…besides the funds and financial benefit,” he said.
Mbonde’s research in silicon photonics focuses on its implementation in telecommunications to improve the current infrastructure in the industry; he researches silicon photonic devices’ design, simulation and fabrication and the study of nonlinear optical effects in integrated optical circuits.
The world, he explained, revolves around electronics; the demand for high-speed Internet and data transfer has increased exponentially, surpassing the capability of the current infrastructure. Using optics to transfer information, specifically by way of a silicon device, will not only increase the speed and efficiency but also help ease the bandwidth bottleneck.
Mbonde says his work is driven by “immense curiosity;” he’s proud to be part of the next wave of technological breakthroughs in photonics.
“When I am interested in something, especially when I believe it actually has a potential to change our life in one way or another, I want to be part of it,” he said.
Mbonde is a team member with the Bradley Research Group, which is dedicated to developing new materials and devices for emerging micro- and nanophotonic systems.
He extended gratitude for the support from his supervisor Jon Bradley, fellow group mates, and mentor Andy Knights, professor in engineering physics and associate vice-president, Research.
Bradley says he’s extremely pleased for Mbonde’s success.
“I am thrilled to learn that Hamidu is a recipient of the Optica Amplify Scholarship for Black Scholars. He has demonstrated outstanding leadership, innovation, hard work and teamwork in our research group and is incredibly well-deserving of this award. This award not only rewards his outstanding efforts, performance and results to date, but gives him access to excellent membership and mentoring opportunities for his future continued success,” Bradley said.