Postdoc: Better together? Stochastic thermodynamics of cooperative optical sensing

Date posted March 7, 2023
Type Postdoc positions

Sensing is vital to all information processing systems, ranging from human-made devices to living matter. An important question in this context is whether cooperativity can improve the sensing performance of otherwise isolated parts of a system. In other words: Are two (or more) coupled sensors better than one? This question has inspired major efforts in optics and biology, albeit these efforts have remained largely disconnected – until now. In this project, you will answer the question through experiments and theory combining the most innovative ideas from nonlinear optics, biology, and stochastic thermodynamics. You will compare optical sensors composed of single and coupled laser-driven nonlinear cavities. Moreover, you will tune the coupling and nonlinearity to access different dynamical regimes. In each case, a nanoparticle will perturb the resonance frequency of a cavity. You will detect this perturbation by measuring the transmitted laser light.  Your goal is to understand whether and how cooperativity can enhance sensing performance. To this end, you will develop a framework of stochastic thermodynamics to describe your sensor. Using this framework, you will understand how thermodynamics constraints the speed, accuracy, and energy efficiency of your cavity-based sensor, and you will develop protocols that optimize the trade-off between these sensing metrics. While experiments will be mainly optical, the ideas you will explore are quite general. In fact, you will interact regularly with 3 groups at AMOLF: Interacting Photons, Biochemical Networks, and Systems Biology. Through this interaction, you will gain insight into powerful methods and open questions in cellular sensing which you can implement and address, respectively, in optical sensing for the first time.  

About the group

In the Interacting Photons group we search for new physics emerging from photon-photon interactions and noise in optical resonators.  We are fascinated by both emergent phenomena and functionalities of optical systems. Most of our group members enjoy both experiment and theory. We strongly value an inclusive and diverse environment. We regularly interact with colleagues from very different fields and backgrounds in AMOLF and beyond. In fact, in this project you will collaborate with members of the Biochemical Networks and Systems Biology groups. Experiments in the Interacting Photons group involve nano- and micron-scale systems where light and matter interact strongly. Such systems, embedded in world-wide unique experimental setups, will also be available for your project.  You will have extensive support from the group leader, other group members, the technical staff (software, electronics, mechanics, etc.) at AMOLF.


You need to meet the requirements for a doctors-degree and must have research experience in a non-Dutch academic environment.

You have a PhD degree in physics or a closely related field. Ideally, you have:
– A background in optics/nanophotonics or stochastic thermodynamics
– An affinity for experiments
– An ability to work in a small team, and supervise younger students
– Enthusiasm for exploring “boundaries between fields”
– Interest in statistical physics, nonlinear optics, and thermodynamics
The group strongly values diversity, and researchers from all backgrounds are invited to apply.

Terms of employment

The position is intended as full-time (40 hours / week, 12 months / year) appointment in the service of the Netherlands Foundation of Scientific Research Institutes (NWO-I) for the duration of 2 years, with a salary in scale 10 (CAO-OI) and a range of employment benefits. AMOLF assists any new foreign Postdoc with housing and visa applications and compensates their transport costs and furnishing expenses.

Contact info

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.

AMOLF is highly committed to an inclusive and diverse work environment. Hence, we greatly encourage candidates from any personal background and perspective to apply.

Commercial activities in response to this ad are not appreciated.