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Mikhail Kats and Zongfu Yu
December 6, 2023

Two UW-Madison ECE faculty in photonics among the most ‘Highly Cited Researchers’ in the world

Written By: Allyson Crowley


For the fourth time in six years, Jack St. Clair Kilby Associate Professor and Antoine-Bascom Associate Professor Mikhail Kats and Professor Zongfu Yu of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Wisconsin–Madison both appear on the Clarivate Web of Science Highly Cited Researchers list.  To be selected to the list, researchers must have authored multiple “Highly Cited Papers” whose citations rank in the top 1% for their field and Web of Science publication year.  Kats was honored with “Highly Cited” appearances in 2023, 2021, 2019, and 2018 lists, while Yu has been recognized every year since 2018. The two ECE faculty’s pioneering research in optics and photonics has been collectively cited over 48,000 times over the past decade. Of the world’s population of scientists, only 0.1% appear on the prestigious list.

Prof. Kats’ optics and photonics research spans the areas of plasmonics, device physics, thermal emission, metasurfaces, nanoscale science, and quantum technologies.  His honors have included the NSF CAREER Award, Office of Naval Research Young Investigator Award, Air Force Office of Scientific Research Young Investigator Award, IEEE Nanotechnology Council Early Career Award, IEEE Photonics Society Young Investigator Award, and recognition as an SPIE “Community Champion.”  As reported in Nature Photonics in November 2023, Kats’ group has recently pioneered an electrically tunable vanadium dioxide-metal metasurface that has multiple optical functionalities – switching, limiting, and nonlinear isolation – all in one structure.

Prof. Yu’s optics and photonics research spans the areas of computational classical and quantum electrodynamics, quantum optics, visual perception, topological photonics, integrated photonics, and radiative cooling.  He is a Fellow of Optica (formerly the Optical Society of America) and a recipient of a National Science Foundation CAREER Award and DARPA Young Faculty Award. He is an inventor on more than 10 patents and patent applications and a co-founder of Flexcompute.  Most recently, Yu and colleagues have successfully simulated Anderson localization – a 50-year-old  Nobel-winning theory about wave diffusion – using finite-difference time-domain computational electromagnetics techniques.  This is particularly significant as it is the first time Anderson localization has been simulated for electromagnetic waves in three dimensions. These findings were published in Nature Physics in June 2023.

The Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at UW–Madison continues to be an international leader in optics and photonics research, and the substantial number of highly cited publications amassed by Yu and Kats is a testament to the widespread influence of their research within the optics and photonics community.