Putting The Faculty of Engineering on the Global Map

In March of this year, the Faculty of Engineering held the 3rd WOMBAT, the Workshop on OptoMechanics and Brillouin Scattering: Fundamentals, Applications, and Technologies.  WOMBAT leader Prof. Avi Zadok shares his experience:

The 3RD Workshop on OptoMechanics and Brillouin Scattering: Fundamentals, Applications, and Technologies – WOMBAT was held in March of this year. The event is dedicated to the joint research of sound and light waves. It is held every two years, and the innovator who brought the event to Israel and Prof. Avi Zadok, of BIU’s Faculty of Engineering. “The first workshop was conducted in Australia in 2015, and the acronym for the event is specifically designed as the name of the Australian animal also depicted in the event’s logo,” explains Zadok, 46. “In that first event, we only had one BIU student. By the second event, held in France in 2017, I was invited with 3 students, and it was an incredible experience. It was one of the best conferences we’ve been to, and that motivated us to host the next event here. Therefore, towards the 3rd workshop, we submitted a proposal to host it here in Israel, and happily, we were accepted.”

Zadok, a tenured professor, has been teaching at the Faculty’s electro-optics study track for nearly a decade. He studies optic fibers and nanotechnology of light, and in the past few years, he’s been focusing on the same subject matter as the workshop – combining light and sound waves. “Usually, light and sound waves are conceived as separate entities, but that’s incorrect. You can’t catalog physics this way. There are reciprocal effects and mutual forces in play. When we combine light in any element – fiber, a nanotechnology component – it has mechanical repercussions on the creation of sound waves. And this is true the other way around – sound waves influence optics. The study of the connection between light and sound is scientifically intriguing. It can teach us about different aspects of matter or quantum mechanics, but it also has significant technological applications. For instance, one of the most sought-after research disciplines today is quantum technology, and one of the best ways to study quantum technology – quantum computers, quantum communication – is by combining light and sound.”

The workshop was jointly led by Prof. Zadok, Prof. Tal Karmon of the Technion, and Prof. Moshe Tur of Tel Aviv University, who served as co-chairmen. The organizing committee included Dr. Mirit Chen, head of Prof. Zadok’s lab, and the “life of the committee”. The National Science Foundation sponsored the event, as did seven industrial companies – one of which was Canadian – and all but one also presented booths at the event. “The overall budget for such an event is about 250,000 NIS,” explains Zadok. “Over half, that was through sponsorship.” The administrative services for the event were provided by the events division of Diesenhaus – they built the event’s website, submitted and reviewed articles, found the location and hired all the service providers.”

The workshop lasted three days. The events of the first two days were held in the Green Corner conference center in Tel Aviv. The third day was held at the Faculty of Engineering at Bar-Ilan University. “70% of the guests arrived from abroad, and it was important for me to show them the Faculty of Engineering,” explains Zadok. “The conference program included 20 invited lectures and another 50 lectures and poster presentations by students and scientists from all over the world. All the major players I wanted to have there – scientists from Yale, Stanford, Oxford, Max Planck – they were all there. People came in from Australia, Chile, Japan, and China. I am extremely appreciative of the faculty for hosting the event, to Prof. Shulamit Michaeli, Bar-Ilan’s VP of Research, and the Bar Ilan Institute for Nanotechnology and Advanced Materials for their sponsorship.”

The feedback received after the event was extremely positive. So positive, in fact, that Zadok was asked to head the stirring committee for the 2021 WOMBAT for the next two years. “The conference also served to network with many event-goers and deepen our collaboration with them. I think we brought a lot of pride to the faculty and to Bar-Ilan.”

WOMBAT conference in Israel