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Cather Simpson: University of Auckland

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The 21st century may come to be known as the Age of Photonics, as we exploit our ability to make and manipulate light as an amazing carrier of energy and information. From quantum computing and entanglement to eye surgery and solar energy, humans are already reaping the benefits of our own endeavours to understand and control light.

In her public lecture webcast at Perimeter on March 6, Cather Simpson from the University of Auckland will highlight her research in exploring how recent advances in the physics of light are transforming our ability to feed the planet safely and sustainably.

Simpson moved from Case Western Reserve University in the USA to the University of Auckland’s Physics and Chemistry Departments in 2007. There, she started the Photon Factory, a laser centre whose mission is to exploit exotic, ultrashort pulsed lasers to enable cross-disciplinary research from the very fundamental to the applied and entrepreneurial.

Simpson’s research explores the interaction of light with matter, particularly how materials can convert light into more useful forms of energy. A relatively recent area of focus is in agriculture, where her work has led to two international award-winning spinout companies. Her many recent accolades include a National Tertiary Teaching Excellence Award, the 2016 Silicon Valley Forum 1st-place AgTech medal, and election as a Fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand Te Apārangi.