Seizing opportunities to shape the future

A technology can only truly mature when you start applying it in real life.’ That is the firm belief of PhD student Bernat Molero Agudo from the Photonics Integration group, and one of the reasons why he is actively involved in challenge-based learning projects at TU/e’s Innovation Space.


Photon valley

Bernat Molero | PhD candidate

When Molero started to ask around, Eindhoven was mentioned multiple times as the new ‘silicon valley’ for integrated photonics, he recollects. With his strong background in physics and mathematics, Molero brings in a new angle for the Photonics Integration group, which is located at the Department of Electrical Engineering.

‘People here work more in the lab than I was used to, and I am more into theory and simulations, which is not everyone’s natural hobby here.’ His PhD research is part of a project that is a collaboration between University of Twente, TU/e and ASML. ‘The aim is to develop an integrated system to tune the spatial coherence of light sources in optical sensing devices.’

The Spanish researcher has always been engaged in extracurricular activities. For example, during his studies in Spain, he joined AIESEC, an international not-for-profit organization that provides young people with leadership development, cross-cultural global internships, and volunteer exchange experiences across the globe. Also as a PhD student, he also looked for ways to expand his horizon beyond his research. ‘I was interested to join a hackathon organized by Innovation Space. Unfortunately, that was not meant for PhD researchers. But when the people there saw my enthusiasm, they convinced me to take part in their challenge-based learning activities as a challenge owner.’

“The first time I discovered the world of photonics, I immediately fell in love with it. Being the younger brother of electronics, I see a lot of potential in the technology for future applications. That is why, after my combined studies of Physics and Mathematics back in Spain, I decided to pursue a PhD in photonic integration.”

Bernat Molero | PhD candidate

Domain expert

Molero acts as the domain expert for projects revolving around photonic integrated circuits. ‘First, I really had to overcome my impostor syndrome: how can I be the expert on this topic? But then it struck me that what the students need most of all is someone who can help them find the right person to talk to in the field. I thoroughly enjoy seeing how “my” students are finding solutions, for example to detect small pieces of polluting plastics.’

Molero greatly appreciates how TU/e provides both students and staff with opportunities to shape their own career paths. ‘As an academic researcher, nobody tells you exactly how to reach a given destination. That can be hard at times, but it also comes with a lot of freedom to shape your own path. For me, that includes working on other things besides my research. Fortunately, here in Eindhoven there are plenty of interesting initiatives to join.’