Internship: Self-organized criticality of light

Work Activities

The human brain performs more calculations per second than the world’s fastest supercomputer—all with a fraction of the power used by one incandescent light bulb. For years, researchers have hypothesized that such an extraordinary information processing capability is an emergent property of a system at the edge of a second-order phase transition, i.e., at a critical point. But how does the brain remain at a critical point (given how easy it is to drift away from it)? In other words: who is turning the knob to keep the system at the edge of a phase transition?  The theory of self-organized criticality (SOC), one of the most spectacular ideas of the past 40 years of physics, emerged in response to these important questions. SOC is a mechanism by which a system can dynamically tune itself to a critical point, and from which scale-free structures (aka fractals) emerge organically in the dynamics of the system. While SOC has been theoretically explored over the past years in statistical physics and neuroscience, the potential of leveraging SOC for optical information processing has never been explored. In this project, you will perform experiments aimed at demonstrating SOC in an optical system. You will then explore the effects of SOC on the transmission of a small signal through that optical system. This project will build on recent theory and experiments from our group. There are options to focus fully on theory, fully on experiments, or a combination of both, depending on your background and interests.


You have a BSc in Physics or closely-related discipline. For experimentally-oriented students, lab experience in optics is not necessary— you will get it here.  For theory-oriented students, knowledge of statistical physics, (nonlinear) dynamical systems, and condensed matter will be useful, but not all of it is strictly necessary. You can contact us for more details. The most important is that you are eager to learn new methods, explore new ideas, and work together with other group members.


Work environment

AMOLF is a part of NWO-I and initiate and performs leading fundamental research on the physics of complex forms of matter, and to create new functional materials, in partnership with academia and industry. The institute is located at Amsterdam Science Park and currently employs about 140 researchers and 80 support employees.

Working conditions

At the start of the traineeship your trainee plan will be set out, in consultation with your AMOLF supervisor.

More information?

For further information about the position, please contact:

Dr. Said Rodriguez
Group leader Interacting Photons
Phone: +31 (0)20-754 7100


You can respond to this vacancy online via the button below.
Please send your:
–  Resume;
–  Motivation on why you want to join the group (max. 1 page).
It is important to us to know why you want to join our team. This means that we will only consider your application if it entails your motivation letter.

Applications will be evaluated on a rolling basis and as soon as an excellent match is made, the position will be filled.

Online screening may be part of the selection.

Diversity code

AMOLF is highly committed to an inclusive and diverse work environment: we want to develop talent and creativity by bringing together people from different backgrounds and cultures. We recruit and select on the basis of competencies and talents. We strongly encourage anyone with the right qualifications to apply for the vacancy, regardless of age, gender, origin, sexual orientation or physical ability.

AMOLF has won the NNV Diversity Award 2022, which is awarded every two years by the Netherlands Physical Society for demonstrating the most successful implementation of equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI).

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