A workshop on photonic and laser systems has taken place in Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria. The objective was to foster existing collaborations and develop new ones between scientists from the UK and Bulgaria.

Representing the UK were physicists from the Centre for Photonics and Phonic Materials (CPPM) at the University of Bath, while the Bulgarian participants hailed from University of Sofia and the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences. The workshop was organised by the UK Embassy to Bulgaria. During the four-day trip, the researchers also visited four laboratories in Sofia.

Dr Rob Dixon, Her Majesty’s ambassador to Bulgaria, said: “It is great to see this fantastic UK-Bulgarian cooperation in laser science and technology. Nearly 50% of all Bulgarian science projects under the Horizon 2020 programme had a UK partner. It is important to preserve this partnership.”

Professor Ventsislav Valev, who led the Bath team, said: “This was a wonderful opportunity to see exciting new science being developed with state-of-the-art laser systems in the Bulgarian institutions. We discovered many areas of overlapping scientific interests between Bath and our Bulgarian colleagues.

“Our discussions have opened a plethora of collaboration possibilities. We are extremely grateful to our hosts in Sofia, and especially to Dr Emilia Pecheva from the UK Embassy for the flawless organisation of the entire event. Doubtlessly, there will be impactful scientific outcomes from this visit.”

Professor Hassan Chamati from the Institute of Solid State Physics in Sofia gave the opening talk at the event. He said: “It was a great pleasure to host our colleagues from the CPPM in Bath. We are grateful for the interest in our work and, in turn, we were delighted to learn about work in the UK. The visit provided an excellent foundation for establishing further research collaborations in the area of laser science.”

The topics at the workshop covered a broad range of research topics, including optical fibres, quantum photonics, quantum computing, chirality, nonlinear optics, ultrafast laser processing, laser-matter interactions, new laser sources for technological applications, and nuclear magnetic resonance.

Contributions from the University of Bath included talks from Professor Jonathan Knight, Dr Peter Mosley, Dr Joshua Nunn and Professor Ventsislav Valev. Contributions from Sofia included Professor Todor Petrov, Professor Lyubomir Stoichev, Professor Lubomir Kovachev, Professor Nikolay Nedyalkov, Professor Ivan Buchvarov and Professor Pavletta Shestakova.

Ventsislav Valev at Sofia University, 25 years apart

Ventsislav Valev visiting Sofia University as a schoolboy and again 25 years later in 2022.

Professor Valev added: “I felt deeply moved by our visit to the Faculty of Physics at Sofia University. Over 25 years ago, as a wide-eyed schoolboy and would-be physicist, I visited this faculty for inspiration. Seeing my enthusiasm, my girlfriend at the time (wife now) took a photograph of me in front of the entrance.

"Returning now, as a professor of physics and future head of department on a visit organised by the UK Embassy was a humbling experience and something of a personal pilgrimage. I am especially grateful to my colleagues for offering to recreate the photograph.”

It is anticipated that this trip will result in research collaborations forming between the CPPM and scientists in Sofia, with a further follow up visit in the next two or three years.

The workshop was sponsored by the UK Science and Innovation Network in Bulgaria.