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Sanli Faez:About

From Sanli Faez

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In August 2015, together with Allard Mosk, we started a new research group nanoLINX (Light and Information in Complex Systems) at the Physics Department of Utrecht University.

Before that, I was a Post-doc at Leiden institute of Physics and before that at Max Planck Institute for the Science of Light in the Sandoghdar division.

My current scientific activities are mainly focused on detecting single electron processes using tools of nano-optics. I call this research direction nanoElectroPhotoncis or in short nano-EPics.

The main focus of my PhD research was on the observation of Anderson localization of classical waves in strongly-scattering media. I explored the universal features of this metal-insulator phase transition, keeping a close eye on the recent advancements in the research on disordered mesoscopic systems.


  • Utrecht University, Utrecht, The Netherlands, August 2015 -
  • Leiden institute of Physics, Leiden, The Netherlands, August 2013 - July 2015
  • Max Planck Institute for the Science of Light, Erlangen, Germany, August 2011 - July 2013
  • FOM institute AMOLF, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, August 2007 - July 2011


  • PhD in Physics, September 2011

University of Amsterdam, based on the research done at FOM Institute for Atomic and Molecular Physics (AMOLF), Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

  • MSc. Nanotechnology, August 2007 (Cum Laude)

University of Twente, Enschede, The Netherlands.

  • BSc. Physics, February 2001

Sharif University of Technology, Tehran Iran.

My story, before coming to the Netherlands

In my high-school years, I was fascinated by building electromechanical systems, for example robots. To my father's disappointment, I never showed any interest in continuing my studies in medicine, because I wanted to study engineering and become an "inventor", whatever that represented for a teenager. To give a clue, Graham Bell and Edison were more fascinating characters for me than Einstein, Hawking, or Louis Pasteur.

It took a year of pure fun and fundamental physics courses for me to become interested in studying physics for its own sake. Chosen for the Iranian team for participation in the International Physics Olympiad, I could enjoy a full year of special training, instead of reciting boring things, like indoctrination textbooks, for the notorious university entrance national exam. Those courses were among the best physics lectures I have ever followed, and all taught in the cleverest manner. It was a real pleasure to learn fundamentals of physics in the most elegant and original way. I lost my interest in engineering, again to my father's disappointment, and got fascinated by the discipline of experimenting, modeling, and solving. So I continued studying "just physics".

At Sharif university, I had the pleasure of taking most of my courses with the same team of lecturers from the Olympiad year, plus other excellent teachers. I remained active in the Olympiad training camp, the so-called Young Scholars Club, where I became a lab supervisor for the forthcoming teams. There I gained invaluable experience in designing ten-dollar experiments for measuring almost any physical quantity. I did not take a single practical course at the university because I hated their precooked recipes and fill-in answersheets.

While in YSC, I even got the chance to start my own elementary research laboratory, where I studied non-coalescence of liquid jets, with a couple of colleagues. We were inspired by observing the dance of floating droplets when one knocks skillfully on a PET bottle. We used to call it the Khorsand effect. At a workshop in Zanjan in 1998, I showed some photographs of my experiments to Fereydoon Family, who brought me in contact with Sidney Nagel and via him with Howard Stone, who was at Harvard at the time.

The enthusiastic reaction of Howard to my simple-minded email was beyond any expectation. Years have passed and I still clearly remember that sweet excitement of frequently receiving those green-hashed pockets from Harvard. They were full of hand-picked articles and study materials, with hand-written notes of Howard on them. Just imagine for a moment, a prominent researcher at Harvard, takes the emails of an 18-year-old student from nowhereland so serious that he would go to the library, copy parts of a book of Lord Rayleigh, and send it to him halfway round the globe. In Europe, I had the opportunity to meet several prominent scientists, and a handful of Noble laureates. None of them impressed me as much as Howard Stone did. For me, he is the role model for caring, giving, and not self-centered scientific character.

With the self-confidence I gained from Howard's response, and with the support of Ahmad Shariati, I wrote my "results" and put them on arXiv. Anyone who reads that piece of text, including the current me, will find it plainly laughable. It would have perhaps disappeared in less than a day if the arXiv moderation system was active at the time. I still feel humbled by the fact that Howard did not laugh at it and even reviewed that manuscript. Later that year, late Antonio Barone (University of Naples), who was visiting Tehran for a conference on Superconductivity, took another batch of photographs from our experiment to Rudolfo Monti and Raffaele Savino. They invited me to their lab in Naples. I spent a summer in the Carlo Marangoni lab and we achieved quite exciting results but I ran out of time before we could compose an article about those results. Despite Raffaele's second invitation, I could not go back to Naples, because I had to suffer the mandatory military service. The very same bouncing droplets made it to the cover of PRL and Nature in 2005, after the beautiful experiments of Yves Couder.

Around the same time, I started to explore other interests of mine ranging from industrial design to entrepreneurship. Those explorations, perhaps driven by freedom from the pressure of college years and a desire for independence, distracted me from physics research. I was trying to become a high-tech designer of water fountains, and my role model was Mark Fuller (Wet Design). For that I needed capital investment. I decided to sell some of my home-made laminar fountains, but soon I found out that a real business takes much more than just technical skills or novel ideas, especially in a developing country. Even a year of studying for an MBA could not turn my frustrating efforts to start a company into any level of success. With the emergence of a populist delusional government in 2005, any remaining glimmer of hope disappeared. Together with my wife, Bahar, we decided to try our chances elsewhere. The easiest way out for me was to get back to the university.

I have been asked several times why did I choose for University of Twente. The answer is again in the attentive character of a physicist, Wilfred van der Wiel. As far as I have seen, contemporary physicists being considerate is more like an exception than a rule, and as it happened such a person was, and still is, working in Enschede. To be frank, I did not even know where to look for Twente on the map when I was applying to several open PhD positions all over the Netherlands. Wilfred was the only person who let me know I need to obtain a masters degree first. He introduced me to the new track of nanotechnology. Despite my very late application I got admitted and even was awarded the Shell Centenary scholarship.

The style of the courses in the Nanotechnology track were very different from my previous experience of exercise-intensive classical studies in Sharif. The multidisciplinary nature of those courses were encouraging me to think more of working in a big enterprise, or to start my own company. I even tried my chance at finishing MBA as a double track. At the time, prospects for finding a job in the western academia were looking so dim to me and I was not prepared to take another risk in my career. But it took just one session of fascination by another scientist with special characters to re-install me on my old track and to initiate my quick transformation from an enthusiast for entrepreneurship into a traditionalist advocate of fundamental research. That guru became my PhD-supervisor.