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Dr Ventsislav Valev

My research

My research focuses on the interaction between powerful laser light and nanostructured materials. In particular, I explore the application of chiral plasmonic nano/meta-materials to achieve enhanced chiroptical effects with potential benefits for the pharmaceutical industry. Powerful lasers constitute highly sensitive probes for material properties at the nanoscale, especially through nonlinear optical effect, such as Second Harmonic Generation. But just as light can be used to study nanomaterials, it can also be used to build them. We have thus demonstrated the world's smallest nanojets and have shown how light could be employed as a tiny needle threading gold strings through chains of nanoparticles.

My journey

A scientific career involves a lot of travelling, which can be difficult to reconcile with family life. The hardest period for me was a two-year postdoc in Cambridge. During that time, my wife and two children remained in Brussels and I was travelling to see them every second weekend. Despite the separation, I kept playing daily with my children through video-calls. Both the children and I would hold toys in our hands and would make stories together. Through the voice of his toys, my son would speak about personal issues and thus I was able to be there for him.