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Computational electromagnetics meet quantum mechanics

Christos Mystilidis has spent three months at POLIMA to exploit synergies and get a deeper understanding of physics

By Louise Skovborg Just, , 5/6/2024

POLIMA has had the pleasure of a three months visit from Christos Mystilidis who is a 4th year PhD student from KU Leuven. His supervisors are Professor Guy A. E. Vandenbosch and Dr. Xuezhi Zheng from the WaveCoRE Division, Department of Electrical Engineering (ESAT) at KU Leuven. Please meet Christos Mystilidis:

Could you briefly describe your research interests?
My research interests lie in the field of computational electromagnetics. Electromagnetics studies the interaction of electromagnetic waves with matter; the computational branch of this discipline focuses on how to formulate these problems in a numerically amenable manner. Essentially, we are searching for advantageous ways to rewrite and solve our equations so that our computer returns us an answer within a reasonable time and with reasonably weak hardware. Even before the start of my PhD my group at KU Leuven and our community in general, was interested in crafting such recipes for light waves and for tiny systems in the nm scale. There we must integrate insight from quantum mechanics in the optical response of our systems. The expertise of POLIMA and the physical understanding it can offer us, exactly in this mesoscopic regime, is invaluable for us. This is why we are getting closer and closer ties, starting last year.  

Who is the private Christos?
I am from Athens in Greece I have spent most of my life there with a small break back in 2002 when I moved to Brussels, since my parents are teachers and were appointed in the (now unfortunately shut down) Greek school of Brussels. A nice circular structure, no?
Now, I am also known for enjoying good art, especially cinema, good food, and good (albeit some people will say too long) discussions. 

Why did you choose to be a researcher?
The very easy answer to give to that is because I could not picture myself doing anything else!

During the first two years of my undergraduate studies, I was not that enthusiastic about it, I was really relaxed. However, when we started to get more specialized, I felt like home with electromagnetics. And then I have I been really blessed with very supportive and inspiring supervisors. George Fikioris was supervisor of my master thesis. Together we did nice research, and I fell in love with the idea of researching, discovering, communicating knowledge. I found it very interesting and very creative. When I met my PhD supervisors, Xuezhi and Guy, back in February 2020, they were giving me a very similar feeling, that we are collaborators and that we are searching for something (that at least we find to be) very interesting and worth communicating without chasing numbers and achievements.  
I like that work as a researcher is never monotonous. Every morning, when I go to my job and think what I'm going to today, I know that it is something new, something different (even if not always pleasant; not a big fan of the bureaucracy). I find the variation very attractive.

Why have you chosen to spend three months at POLIMA?
As a young scientist it is interesting and important to meet in person the scientists that you admire scientifically and see them as real people and appreciate them both for their personalities and scientific outlook.
The decision was straightforward and smooth too: last year, my PhD supervisor Dr. Xuezhi Zheng spent three months at POLIMA as well and actually he paved the way for me - even before I visited POLIMA, we had published together with POLIMA. 
Now, from a scientific perspective we belong to complimentary research domains: we craft algorithms for the models you have been creating and working on for years. I think (and I hope you do too) that this is a win-win situation: I get a deeper understanding of the physics underlying our solution methods and you extend the exploration space of your approaches, new geometries, old, but for more complicated models, and possibly more interesting phenomena. Both research lines are perfectly solid on their own; I find them much more appealing when combined. 

What have you gained of your visit at POLIMA?
It has been a quite intense stay with a lot of hard work.
My initial goal was to build like a personal dictionary between the physics and the electrical engineering and this has been achieved more or less in the sense that now I can talk much easier with people of different discipline and communicate my ideas and also understand theirs more effectively.
It is very important for me as a young researcher to embark on an independent research journey. I hope to be able to combine the influences from my supervisors, my current, my previous perhaps my future ones and graft them into, you know, a single research line that I enjoy and maybe I'm good at.

By the end of my stay, I think we will be able to show something nice and most importantly multidisciplinary - different sets of eyes on the same problem seeing it from different angles. That is the essence of our collaboration.

What are the top three experiences in Denmark?
1. The film culture, it's unbelievable, I love going to the cinema, and I have not seen such an enthusiastic audience before.
2. The second must be either the peaceful walk along Odense Å or along the imperious central streets in Copenhagen Speaking of Copenhagen, the mural of Salvador Allende, not a common sight these days.
3. The good pastry – it is unbelievable and unexpected (and difficult to pronounce). 
Christos Mystilidis
Christos Mystilidis



This research stay was supported by funding from  The Research Foundation – Flanders (FWO)  (contract id V420424N)

Editing was completed: 06.05.2024