Author Archives: Sophie Messens

BySophie Messens

Extended deadline 10 June! applications and scholarships EEA and non-EEA!

10 more days for international students to apply for our European MSc. in Photonics!

Within the approach of our master program, we aim to make our program accessible to all motivated and highly-skilled students around the globe.  Many excellent students are looking for different ways to fund their master studies in the heart of Europe.

Scholarships are one of the options that allow them to focus on their studies, which can also open the doors to new opportunities.   Therefore, both VUB as UGent award different scholarships: to start and – even more importantly – finalize our master with great success.

VUB offers 12 scholarships in total, as from 1000 EUR Entry Scholarship up to 5 Full Scholarships worth 10 000 EUR per year to cover the cost of living in Brussels.  Ghent University grants 5 UGent Photonics Excellence Grants, worth 5000 Euro per academic year.

The VUB registration office informed us students can submit their application up till 6 June: both non-EEA as EEA at VUB and EEA not requiring a VISA at UGent. Don’t wait until till the last day and start your application already through this  this link.

The European MSc. in Photonics is jointly organized by UGent and VUB, so students can choose to take courses at both universities during the program and receive a joint degree from both Universiteit Gent as from Vrije Universiteit Brussel.

Once admitted and enrolled to the program, students can be awarded a grant or scholarship. No need to apply separately for the scholarships or grants, our education officers Majorie (VUB) and Bert (UGent) are guiding students through the enrollment procedure.

Looking forward to welcome you at our master!


BySophie Messens

Photonics Event 2018 workshops on automotive 3D sensing and nanotechnology for digital lenses

Bringing students and industry together, is one of the key pillars of the European MSc. in Photonics. By integrating entrepreneurship courses, internships, guest lectures and dedicated events, they get in touch with different types of companies that use optics and photonics in their product roadmap.

This years’ Photonics Event at Vrije Universiteit Brussel offered 24 master students animated workshops to experience the actual performance but also challenges of real-world business cases. Two companies with exquisite expertise in their field of technology gave the students more insights through interactive demonstrations:

  1. Xenomatix showcased 2 of their sensors: the XenoLidar measuring vertical objects using the time-of-light principle and the Xenotrack that measures differences in heights in pavements, through a sensor installed on the rooftop of a demo car. After a short introduction, students tested both sensors and joined for a test drive on the VUB campus.

Eyeco Eyeco’s ambition is to use glasses that make people with presbyopia see as if they were twenty years younger through cutting-edge digital Fresnel-based lenses. In full development, details of the project were only disclosed to the participants of the Photonics Event!

From the feedback during the closing network reception, the students, speakers and professors were unanimous positive about the workshops.  Let’s start planning business cases for next year!


BySophie Messens

Industry Guest Lecture Commscope ‘Broadband to the Home’

Dr. Jan Watté from Commscope, honorary fellow of the VUB Faculty of Engineering, has recently given a guest lecture to our Master Students in Photonics in the frame of the course ‘Optical Communication Systems’ at VUB. During his talk he presented an industrial perspective on broadband to the home and the role of fiber and fiber connectivity.

Who is not dreaming of a super fast and super reliable internet connection? But what are the biggest challenges for Fiber To The Home nowadays?

Prof. Jürgen Van Erps, who teaches the course in Optical Communication Systems, answered as follows: “Video streaming and connected devices in the Internet of Things are the main drivers for the ever-increasing demand for bandwidth. The main message of Jan Watté’s guest lecture was that the biggest threshold for companies is to find excellent technical staff to roll-out fiber in an effective way. In addition, the deployment of Fiber To The Home in Europe is lagging behind because of two other  reasons: most of our broadband connections are still performing well enough and secondly, the majority of the broadband lines are installed underground and are therefore very costly to replace.”

We can conclude that there is a big demand for outstanding photonics engineers in the telecom sector with a passion for broadband to accelerate the deployment of optical fiber… to our homes. Bright perspectives for all of us and for our students!


BySophie Messens

Curious about our alumni in Photonics? Meet Said, Scientific Group Leader AMOLF

One of the most frequently asked questions we get about our Master programme concerns the whereabouts of our graduated students: whatever happened to them? Who are they, what are alumni up to today, was it easy to find a job once graduated?

Said Rodriguez, Scientific Group Leader, at AMOLF Center for Nanophotonics, starts off to share some inspiring insights with you!

Joining the (Erasmus Mundus) Masters in Photonics organised by UGent and Vrije Universiteit Brussel was one of the best decisions he made during his studies:

The master is a fantastic programme enabling non-Europeans to get a top-quality education in photonics while experiencing European culture.”

When did photonics or light technology appeared as a game changer that made you choose for a master in photonics?  

 During my Bachelors it became clear that light played a central role in scientific discovery for centuries — think of Newton, Maxwell, Planck, Einstein, and Bohr, to name a few examples. Inspired by these historical developments and the observation of the beautiful phenomenology associated with light-matter interactions, I became eager to learn more about the science of light.  I also wanted to travel, to experience different cultures and meet diverse people. Through a generous scholarship and an exceptionally well-organized programme, I could fulfil both of my wishes. This was an opportunity I could not miss!

What part of the programme was your favorite?

There were many aspects of the European Master in Photonics programme I enjoyed. For instance, the accessibility of several professors and the quality of their lectures. Overall, I enjoyed the diversity that the programme offered in many ways, including international environment and teaching methods (options ranging from very hands-on photonic engineering, to physical chemistry and pure maths). I also enjoyed the friendly environment created by the professors and students.

Do you have tips for future students in photonics?

If you can, join! Do not hesitate. It is a great programme, and if I would have to decide again, I would definitely do it again.

In case you join and you really want to make the most out of the program, I strongly recommend you start reading books on optics & photonics the summer before you officially start your studies. Contact your professors or program coordinator ahead of time, and try to get information regarding what they expect you to know by the time the course starts. That way, you can be ready to learn the material they want to teach you (the real stuff!) and you don’t have to spend excessive amounts of time learning material you were supposed to know before you joined.

What are the main future opportunities in optics and photonics to keep a close look at?

It is said that just as the 20th century was the century of electronics, the 21st century will be the century of photonics.  There are so many opportunities for people with a strong background in photonics, both in academia and in industry. If you excel in your courses and in your research, opportunities will come to you rather than the other way around. So just focus on learning as much as you can. Try to develop a unique skill set that makes you valuable to the companies or institutes you wish to apply to.

Last but not least: how to prepare for the job market?

  • Ask your professors or colleagues for feedback on your CV.
  • Practice (a lot!) your presentations. Communication skills are extremely valuable, and they can be a decisive factor for getting a job.
  • Investigate as much as you can about the company or institute you are applying to before you arrive to an interview (e.g. read their websites, articles, etc.)
  • Since your initial contact, show genuine enthusiasm for the job. If you can also convincingly explain why you are enthusiastic about joining this group, you will have a huge advantage in getting the job.

His favorite quote to end in beauty… 

“Try and penetrate with our limited means the secrets of nature and you will find that, behind all the discernible laws and connections, there remains something subtle, intangible and inexplicable. Veneration for this force beyond anything that we can comprehend is my religion.”

– Albert Einstein, in “Einstein: His Life and Universe” by Walter Isaacson

Alumni ID kit Said Rodriguez

Scientific Group Leader, at AMOLF Center for Nanophotonics in the Netherlands.


European Master in Photonics (VUB/UGent with Erasmus at KTH)

Bachelor in Engineering Physics (Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, USA)

BySophie Messens

Applications on a rolling basis started !

The growth in photonics business in Belgium and internationally requires excellent engineering talent with problem-solving skills. The European MSc. in Photonics offers an ideal mix of core knowledge with engaging hands-on labs and international internships to prepare future photonics engineers optimally for a bright career.

As from now on, students can apply on a rolling basis. Our aim is to disclose the final outcome within 3 weeks after full application. A huge benefit to prepare your start timely!

Application deadlines to keep in mind:
Non-EEA candidates: 1 March (for UGent) and 1 June (for VUB)
EEA candidates: 1 June
Belgian Bachelors: 30 September

Did you see our scholarships and grants?
Vrije Universiteit Brussel is granting 5 full scholarships of 10000 EUR per year to students enrolling at VUB. In addition, B-PHOT Brussels Photonics Research at VUB offers B-PHOT Excellence Scholarships based on excellence and motivation. Furthermore UGent Photonics Excellence Grants offers 4000 EUR to start the first master year to cover a part of the cost of living.

Photonics is applied in many domains such as life sciences, biophotonics, telecommunications, screen technology, Internet of Things, food safety, robotics and Industry 4.0. Do you want to be part of a future-oriented community of top experts?

Start your application here.
You can request the full brochures with all details per mail via

For regular updates on our program, join us on facebooktwitter and Linkedin!

BySophie Messens

Graduates of European MSc. In Photonics are EUR-ACE® certified

After the submission of the evaluation file followed by the visit of the experts in 2016, the conclusions of the CTI have been confirmed to us today.

The European Master of Science in Photonics was audited by CTI, as part of the EUR-ACE® quality audit carried out by ENAEE (European Network for Accreditation of Engineering Education). This international quality label provides a set of standards that identifies high-quality engineering degree programmes in Europe and abroad, and facilitates academic and professional mobility.

Professions in domains such as engineering, health care, architecture and others carry out work which directly affects the lives of everyone of us. To prepare students for 21st century jobs, the European MSc. in Photonics invests continuously in analysis and optimization of the programme.

As a research-rich master, we engage students actively in research and measurements in labs which allows them to bring fresh insights to the field.

The accreditations programme shows an independent view on how well the students in a programme receive the knowledge and skills required by the industry. EUR-ACE incorporates the views and perspectives of the main stakeholders: higher education institutions, professional organisations, accreditation agencies, students and employers.

We are very pleased that as an end result, CTI (Commission des Titres d’Ingénieur) decided to grant the EUR-ACE label to the European Master of Science in Photonics for a duration of 6 years, also confirmed by NVAO, the Accreditation Organisation of the Netherlands and Flanders.

BySophie Messens

Photonics Summer Symposium 2017: graduation time!

Introduced only a few years ago, the Photonics Summer Symposium has already become a traditional event to close the academic year.

The Summer Symposium is organized during two days, at UGent and at VUB, where second master students can finally celebrate their graduation after two years of hard work and intense coursework.

First they need to present and defend their master thesis project to a jury and in front of their fellow-students.

Students still staying abroad for international exchange, could follow all presentations and the invited lecture via live-streams. They will have the chance to present their master thesis project in September.

The first day at Ghent University, the following master students presented their project:

  • Tong Cui –  “Critical coupling in plasmonic resonators” (in collaboration with ETH Zurich)
  • Frederik Van Acker –  “Tracking and index sensing of cells during differentiation with intracellular WGM lasers” (in collaboration with St Andrews University)
  • Lucas Oorlynck – “Design and fabrication of liquid crystal cells for smart contact lenses”
  • Tsieu Yip – “Advanced electrical characterization of Kesterite thin film solar cells with different zinc and tin contents”
  • Brecht Berteloot – “Optical sensor readout system using a tunable Bragg grating filter”
  • Tzu-Te Yang – “Imprinted guided-mode resonance grating refractive index sensor”.

The second day of the symposium following students presented at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel:

  • Anissa Sefsaf –  “High speed CMOS receiver with integrated photodetector”
  • Liang Wang – “Expanded beam fiber connector components based on 3D nanoprinted optical structures”.

Based on all presentations and master dissertations, the jury decided to award Tong Cui with the Award for Best Master Thesis 2017.

Further Prof. Christophe Caucheteur (UMons) presented “Towards in vivo diagnosis with plasmonic optical fibre immunosensors” during an invited talk.

To close this year’s edition of the Photonics Summer Symposium, students and professors enjoyed a delicious graduation lunch outdoors served by foodtrucks at the beautiful VUB Campus.


BySophie Messens

75% of our students travel the world to join our European MSc. In Photonics

Discovering the world starts often with a study abroad. Year over year we welcome on average 75% international students, from Europe and worldwide. This terrific mix of different cultures adds value to the learning experience of our students.

Next to a lot of hands-on training in labs and a multi-disciplinary approach combining photonics, engineering, nano-technology and physics, we also put a lot of focus on 21st century skills.

Those competences help people to engage in society, stimulate creativity, communication and train them in co-working.  Society today has never been more diverse, interconnected, and innovation-oriented where critical thinking, the ability of problem-solving and motivation are highly valued by employers.

An enriching international exchange contributes to the optimal preparation of our students for a professional career.  They can choose to spend one semester abroad for courses and/or to do a master thesis with one of our partner universities. Students can also take up a 5 to 12-week internship working at a partner company that fit their domain of interest.

Now, what do the students tell about this international flavor of the European Master in Photonics?  Five students and graduates shared their experience:




Enda McCague, Ireland

“The master in photonics program appealed to me because it offered the best in both international experience and opportunity to research at the forefront of real applied science and engineering. The standard of education and teaching in both Belgium and Switzerland, where I have spent my exchange, have been incredibly high. Over the course of my master studies I have gained an enormous amount both in a personal development sense, and in an academic sense. Choosing the master in photonics has proven to be a great option for me, and it has delivered above and beyond my expectations.”  



Anas Gasser, Egypt

Belgium generally and Brussels especially are the most international places in Europe.  In addition, the low density of the classes assures that you will never be just a number in the program and makes the interaction between the students, professors and staff members smooth and easy. The international internship opportunities give you an amazing chance to gain more experience from multinational world-class companies. After seven months here in Brussels, I can tell that choosing this program was a perfect decision.”


Krishan Harkhoe, Surinamekrishan-vub-emsp

The VUB outshone all the other universities I could choose from, because of their European Master in Photonics. You can say it was love at first sight, because it is the perfect mix of physics and engineering.”


giancarlo    Giancarlo Barbieri, Italy

Exciting to see what a difference light can make to help people in so many ways. VUB is a very warm and welcoming university, people are very kind. And furthermore the labs are highly equipped for technical projects and measurements. I can certainly recommend the programme!”



Benson Bo-Jiun Chen, Taiwan

Of my time in Belgium, the thing that stands out the most is my internship with Commscope. Also the international aspect was great; I met a lot of people from different backgrounds and cultures, which was very interesting. I wish other people can also experience different and special cultures in my country or other countries. Because traveling makes people think more.”

Applications for EU/EEA students who don’t require a VISA are open till 1 June 2017 at VUB, the programme also provides scholarships including full VUB scholarships for students that enroll at Vrije Universiteit Brussel.

BySophie Messens

5 reasons to come to LIGHT NIGHT 2017 

Everyone is so busy, has so little time and then there is LIGHT NIGHT crossing your path.

SPIE Student Chapter went out of their way to give this edition a special touch celebrating their 10th anniversary.  A few months before LIGHT NIGHT, SPIE Student Chapter Brussels and B-PHOT gathered to answer questions on what inspires students and professionals in high-tech and engineering nowadays.  A specific topic involved future challenges, what is happening in photonics land and how to tackle them through the right education?

A good start, but let’s share 5 good reasons to join us on Thursday 27 April at Vrije Universiteit Brussel!

  1. Strong programme and strong speakers

For this 10th anniversary, the man who introduced the first Master in Photonics on the European mainland and is leading VUB B-PHOT photonics team, will give us a snapshot on Photonics 2050. What global opportunities lay ahead of any of us and how can the science and technology of light tackle societal challenges? According to Prof. Dr. Ir. Hugo Thienpont.

We also proudly present international speakers that you won’t see in just another event. Dr. Marc Himel, Business Developer from Jenoptik Optical Systems is giving a pertinent overview how light can play a leading role for a better world.

Mixed Reality (MR) succeeding Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) scored high on the list of interests. No surprise as headsets are common for anyone who is slightly aware of gaming. But what about industry applications, how can optics and photonics improve the effective use of headsets? Partner Optical Architect at Microsoft Corp., Dr. Bernard Kress will introduce us to the importance of human-centric optical design for next-generation MR headsets.

Local top talent has been invited to tell compelling stories that bundle the impact of education in photonics on their lives. Former presidents of the SPIE Student Chapter, now professionals in many domains, including a few professors at the VUB, have 4 minutes each to testify. How did they survive their European Master in Photonics? Any fun memories with SPIE Student Chapter? A cozy gathering of the actual and former presidents.

  1. It’s simply a nice event, somewhat unique in Belgium

Students, alumni, professors and professionals are gathering for an update of the newest opportunities that photonics and optics offer.  And obviously to keep in touch with colleagues. Need to recover from inspiring talks? Unwind during the network reception, refreshing drinks and light food.  Maybe you might be one of the happy few winning the contest for a mind-blowing demo with Microsoft Hololens?

  1. Code red, time to wake up!

Photonics is recognized as key-enabling technology by the European Commission. It is time to anticipate on future opportunities for high-tech engineers and companies.  We hope LIGHT NIGHT will give more insights, perspectives and motivation to be(come) part of the growing photonics community worldwide.

  1. Networking, the real deal

Join in with many and we will have a colorful mix of students, consultants, engineers, professors, entrepreneurs and more. Next to a strong programme, the total experience is as important. Meet and greet, plenty of opportunity to have one-on-ones with the speakers and participants. No formal dates or high-tech apps, just old fashioned gathering. For some a throw-back in time on the campus.

  1. It’s for free!

Seriously, international and national top talent, game-changing topics, nice food & drinks and enchanting people. For no money, what can we say?

We love photonics, we should have mentioned this at the beginning.

So, cancel any other date, and register right here  for LIGHT NIGHT 2017!

We hope to see you on Thursday 27 April,

welcome as from 18:00.


Here you can also find all details of the programme, or visit SPIE Student Chapter VUB on Facebook


BySophie Messens

VUB SPIE Student Chapter visits ETAP and Philips Museum during photonics industry day

To get a closer look at what industrial photonics looks like, the SPIE Student Chapter at VUB took its members for a company visit to ETAP Lighting in Antwerp (BE) and a tour in the Philips Museum in Eindhoven (NL).

etap-1 At ETAP the students were welcomed by Christ’l Joris, the President of the Board of Directors. Inspiring talks demonstrated the road from concept to product, potential challenges on the way, and the possibilities the future might have to offer.


The design of LED luminaires is a clear example of how their study of optical design courses is implemented in industry. The fact that a lamp can be more than just a source of photons, was explained during an intriguing talk about smart lighting, LiFi and its connection to the Internet of Things.

A guided visit to the production halls showed that ETAP is a top quality fully-fledged lighting company. During a refreshing lunch kindly offered by ETAP, the students had the opportunity to talk about photonics industry with Pascal De Langhe, CEO at ETAP.

In the afternoon, the students were thrown back in the 125 years of Philips history during a guided museum visit. A former Philips employee presented the innovations bringing incandescent lighting towards the current LED technology, with insider anecdotes about the life at Philips.

philips-2 Next to the rich overview of history, the awarded museum also offered an interactive experience about ‘Innovation and You’: “How can a doctor give an accurate digitized diagnose to improve treatments?”, “How do high-tech networks increase safety in the streets?”, and much more…

The visits were a great success, giving the students a taste of ways to effectively use their academically obtained skills to participate in designing the future of lighting.

©Sidney Goossens, President of SPIE Student Chapter Brussels