Niek F. van Hulst

Niek F. van Hulst

Institut de Ciències Fotòniques

Engineering Sciences

Following study in Astronomy and Physics, I obtained my PhD (1986) in Molecular & Laser-Physics at the University of Nijmegen (the Netherlands), on microwave-laser double resonance molecular-beam spectroscopy. After research in non-linear optics of organic materials, integrated optics, atomic force and near-field optical microscopy, since 1997 full Professor at MESA+ Institute for NanoTechnology, University of Twente (the Netherlands) with focus on single molecule detection and scanning probe technology. In 2005, attracted by the Catalan quality-based science policy, I started as ICREA Research Professor and senior group leader at ICFO - the Institute of Photonic Sciences, within The Barcelona Institute of Science & Technology; also I am Head Academic Programs and NanoFabrication Lab at ICFO. Recipient of 2003 Körber European Science Award, 2010 City of Barcelona Prize; ERC Advanced Grants in 2010 and 2015, PoC in 2017; 2017 European Physical Society Prize.

Research interests

My current interest is to control light interaction at the nanometer scale. To this end, my group specializes on optical antennas, with nanoscale hot spots, and on coherent control schemes to command light on the “femto-nano” scale. We study individual molecules, quantum dots and single proteins, in strong interaction with nanoantenna-cavities and sub-10-fs pulses; controlling excitation-emission rates, direction, spectra, polarization, single photon character. We focus particularly on long-lived coherences in single light-harvesting antenna complexes at native conditions, to unravel the remarkably high efficiency of energy conversion in such natural molecular antennas. At ICFO I aim to stimulate young researchers, towards well-rooted skilled scientists and assertive critical thinkers, ready to shape their future and sustain the world. To recharge, I like to touch ground in the Massis del Garraf or to stroll around the coast, inspired by the ancient Mediterranean waters.

Selected publications

– Piatkowski L, Accanto N, Calbris G, Christodoulou S, Moreels I & van Hulst NF 2019, ‘Ultrafast Stimulated Emission Microscopy of Single Nanocrystals’, Science 366, 1240-1243.

– Block A, Liebel M, Yu R, Spector M, Sivan Y, Garcia de Abajo FJ & van Hulst NF 2019, ‘Tracking ultrafast hot-electron diffusion in space and time by ultrafast thermomodulation microscopy’, Science Advances 5, eaav8965.

– Remesh V, Grinblat G, Li Y, Maier SA & van Hulst NF 2019, ‘Coherent Multiphoton Control of Gallium Phosphide Nanodisk Resonances’, ACS Photonics 6, 2487−2491.

Selected research activities

Selected invited talks:

  • OSA Quantum Bio-Photonics Incubator, Washington DC, USA
  • NanoPhotonics 2019: Foundations and Applications, Monte Verita, Ascona, Switzerland
  • Heraeus Seminar, Ultrafast Quantum Phenomena, Bad Honnef, Germany
  • Micro-NanoTech. Workshop, Univ. Gothenburg, Sweden
  • Micro-Nanophotonics Days 2019, Ecole Politecnique, Palaiseau, France
  • DINAMO 2019, San Cristóbal, Galapagos, Ecuador
  • QUTIF Research School, Freiburg, Germany
  • SUNRISE Roadmap, Brussels, Belgium
  • NanoSpain 2019, Barcelona
  • S3IC 2019, Munich, Germany
  • Colloquium, Univ. Bristol, UK


  • CLEO/Europe 2019, München, Germany: Chair EQEC Symposium EG
  • S3IC 2020 Barcelona: Co-chairman with Frank Vollmer
  • EOSAM2020, Porto, Portugal: Program committee TOM-5
  • NanoLight 2020, Benasque, Spain: Organizer with Luis Martin-Moreno
  • ICFO: Head Academic Programs;  Head NanoFabrication Laboratory