Salah Obayya

Zewail City of Science and Technology, Egypt

For research leadership and seminal contributions to computational photonics.

Physics, chemistry, and math were always favorite subjects of Salah Obayya, who has been able to make a career out of them. He entered Mansoura University in Egypt, “determined to make research, education, and engineering innovation the focus of his career,” and he has successfully accomplished this goal. Today, he believes his most important role is as mentor, having worked with and guided ten faculty members, 15 postdocs, more than 25 PhD students, and over 70 masters students. This huge network has proven to be an important factor in his life. He comments that mentoring has “granted me a richness of experience and skills that have helped accelerate the growth and progress of my academic activities…[it] has given me the precious opportunity to harness my leadership skills for forming large teams composed of individuals with different backgrounds, ambitions, career aspirations, [and] cultures.” He learned how to offer support/guidance from his own mentors at Mansoura University. From them, he learned to be open to sharing experience, skills, and knowledge. Salah also learned the importance of dialogue between colleagues, constructive feedback, and mutual respect. He comments that these traits are “the foundation of a true scientific value system.”

Today, his research focus is on green nanophotonics, with a focus on intelligent computational modeling of modern nanophotonic devices that are enabling technologies for a low-carbon green society. He and his team are working towards “creating new physically-inspired computational models that can accurately characterize nanoscale photonic devices.” Recently, he was able to come up with a number of concepts in the area of data encryption using photon entanglement systems. This “is believed to be very promising technology.” His work has proven to have impact in the past, for example, he led a team “that developed an internationally recognized, comprehensive numerical package for the analysis, design, and optimization of nanophotonic devices and subsystems.” His research achievements would not have been the same if not for a risky move in 2012 from the University of New South Wales in the United Kingdom to his current position at Zewail City of Science and Technology in Egypt. He remembers, “[taking a position at a newly established institution] granted me the trajectory of challenges to help lead a truly research-led high education institution, with all the great potential to shape the future of the country and the region.”

Salah has also benefitted greatly from being a member of the society. He calls it “the most prestigious optics and photonics society worldwide,” and is extremely honored to have been elected a Fellow. For Salah, the society has allowed him the platform, through “first-rate publications and conferences,” to grow his own knowledge of the field. He also credits the society with helping him to build a large network of other researchers and industry contacts.

For young scientists, Salah has one main piece of advice: “Read.” He says that reading is the most important thing when it comes to “self-learning” or teaching oneself a new concept. He admits that at the beginning this can be challenging, especially without guidance. However, he advises to keep at it and develop a habit, “soon turning it into fun and something of great joy and high career benefit.” He adds, “Reading will also help raise your confidence, self-esteem, and critical thinking capabilities; these are all ingredients for creativity.”

Photo Credit: Salah Obayya

Profile written by Samantha Hornback