Student Spotlight: Kunal Shastri

Kunal Shastri

November 15, 2021

Kunal Shastri is a doctoral candidate in electrical and computer engineering from Pune, India. After attending the Nanyang Technological University in Singapore as an undergraduate, he chose to pursue further study at Cornell due to the researchers working in optics and photonics.

What is your area of research and why is it important?

My area of research is the exciting field of optics and photonics. Various novel photonic devices such as ultra-compact lenses with thickness comparable to the wavelength of light (called metalenses), ultra-thin light absorbers (called metasurface absorbers), and engineered materials that reduce the empty space between lenses and detectors in cameras (called spaceplates) are revolutionizing the field of optics and photonics. I have been working on modeling these various novel devices and finding their ultimate performance limits.  

What are the larger implications of this research?

These novel devices are attracting widespread attention from both academia and industry primarily due to their ability to reduce the size and weight of conventional optical devices, starting from cell phone cameras, optical endoscopes, to light sensors and detectors. Knowing the ultimate performance limits and tradeoffs of these devices can help compare and assess various current designs and inform future ones.

Which conference did you attend with your Graduate School Conference Travel Grant?

I attended the conference on lasers and electro-optics, CLEO 2021, virtually. I presented one of my recent works about a tradeoff between the maximum light that can be absorbed and the angular range of a certain class of metasurface absorbers.

What did you take away from the experience of presenting at an online conference? If you have previously presented at an in-person conference, how did this experience differ?

I was able to reach a larger audience since the online conference presentation had a higher attendance as compared to my previous in-person experience. I think this was because there was no travel involved and all the presentations were recorded, making it easier for anyone around the world to attend. On the other hand, interactions are limited at online conferences, and I found it difficult to have one-on-one discussions with other researchers. 

How important was obtaining this grant for your professional development?

Presenting at academic conferences is an important part of research communication. I was able to attend this conference and present my results because the Grad School grant covered the conference registration fees.  

What are your hobbies or interests outside of your research or scholarship?

I recently picked up ultimate frisbee and I am hooked. You will see me playing every other evening during the warmer months. I also like going on hikes and attending music concerts (any genre!).  

Why did you choose Cornell to pursue your degree?

I was drawn to Cornell because of the excellent researchers working in the areas of optics and photonics, one of whom, Francesco Monticone, is now my advisor.