Bhavin Shastri: The 2022 SPIE Early Career Achievement Award – Academic Focus
Bhavin Shastri is considered one of the pioneers of the emerging field of neuromorphic photonics: he coined the term as well as co-authoring the first textbook in the field, 2017's Neuromorphic Photonics. His research lies at the interdisciplinary interface of nanophotonics, neuromorphic computing, and silicon photonic platform, an area that promises to open new frontiers in machine learning for artificial intelligence and brain-inspired computing. His neuromorphic photonic processors have the potential to be six orders of magnitude faster than state-of-the-art electronic processors while consuming less energy. Applications include enabling fundamental physics breakthroughs (qubit readout classification, high-energy particle collision classification); nonlinear programing (solving nonlinear optimization problems and partial differential equations); scientific computing (many-body physics, protein folding simulations); and intelligent signal processing (wideband RF, fiber-optic communication, spectral mining).
An assistant professor of engineering physics at Canada's Queen's University, he holds BEng (2005), MEng (2007), and PhD (2012) degrees in electrical engineering from McGill University. He was a Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council and Banting Postdoctoral Fellow, and an associate research scholar at Princeton University. He has published more than 50 journal articles and 70 conference proceedings as well as giving more than 35 invited talks and lectures. The recipient of multiple student and professional awards including, in 2011, an SPIE Optics and Photonics Education Scholarship, Shastri is also a conference program committee member for SPIE Nanoscience + Engineering's Emerging Topics in Artificial Intelligence. Through Queen's University's Women in Science and Engineering organization, Shastri serves as a mentor to undergraduate and graduate students as well as offering research opportunities in his lab. He and his students actively participate in outreach initiatives of the Aboriginal Access to Engineering initiative which encourages Aboriginal youth to consider STEM as a potential career path.
"Neuromorphic photonics has reached an inflection point," says Princeton University's Electrical Engineering and Applied Science Professor Paul Prucnal who supervised Shastri through his post-doctoral appointments. "The end of Moore's law is galvanizing the community to put forward candidates for next-generation computing, from bio to quantum computers. Photonics — neuromorphic photonics in particular — is a formidable candidate for analog reconfigurable processing. I expect the development of this field to accelerate as neuroscience makes leaps in our understanding of the nature of cognition, as artificial intelligence demands more computational resources for machine learning, and as photonics technology continues to mature. Professor Shastri, the very best of the PhD students and postdocs who have come out of my group during my career, is undoubtedly playing the key role here with his unique interdisciplinary background in optics, photonics, and machine learning. It is interesting to note that he was originally in the field of machine learning, working with Professor Martin Levine at McGill's Centre for Intelligent Machines, before making a switch to photonics. This shows the versatility Professor Shastri has in approaching different types of problems. Also, he is a prolific inventor with strong connections to industry: his research, while being fundamental and applied, is also making real-world technological advancements."