Quantum optics specialist Kuate Defo named a Ford Foundation postdoctoral fellow

Written by
Scott Lyon
April 5, 2022

Physicist Rodrick Kuate Defo has received a Ford Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship to study the theoretical underpinnings of quantum optical devices.

The Ford Foundation supports around 24 postdoctoral fellows each year across a wide range of disciplines. The one-year fellowship, administered by the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine, comes with a $50 thousand stipend and access to a network of former Ford Foundation fellows who act as career mentors.

Kuate Defo is currently a Princeton Presidential Postdoctoral Scholar and previously participated in the Pathways into the Academy program, developed and administered by Princeton’s School of Engineering and Applied Science. While his graduate work focused on electronics, his postdoctoral work has broadened to include photonics, the study of interactions between light and matter. His Princeton adviser, Associate Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering Alejandro Rodriguez, said Kuate Defo’s intellectual flexibility and eagerness to examine so many areas of science are the hallmarks of a great theoretician.

During his Ford fellowship year, Kuate Defo will continue defining the optical properties of special semiconducting materials such as diamonds, where minute defects in the crystalline structure can be used to store information. His work will seek to determine the limits of how much light emission can be enhanced from such structures, thereby placing physical bounds on device architecture.

“Understanding the performance gap between known structures and these physical bounds should help steer theoretical and experimental efforts aimed at developing better quantum information processors and novel light sources,” Rodriguez said.

Raised in Montreal, Kuate Defo earned a bachelor’s degree in physics and mathematics from McGill University and a Ph.D. in physics from Harvard University, where he uncovered basic insights into the electronic properties of the materials he studies today.