Ian Williamson


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About me

I am a software engineer at X (formerly Google X) working on an undisclosed project at the intersection of optimization, physics, and high performance computing. From Dec 2017 to February 2020, I was a postdoc at Stanford University in Professor Shanhui Fan’s research group. Prior to working at Stanford, I was at The University of Texas at Austin, where I graduated with a PhD in electrical engineering.

I am an engineer with a background in optics and electromagnetics but I am also excited by physics at the intersection between optics, electronics, mechanics, and acoustics. Generally, I am interested in any application of these kinds of physics that involves information processing, analog computing, and neuromorphic hardware. I also really enjoy developing numerically-focused software in Python, Julia, Matlab, and other languages for high-performance simulation and optimization.

Lately, I have been interested in using the automatic differentiation capabilities of libraries like Tensor Flow and PyTorch (which are typically used for machine learning) for inverse design problems and, more generally, for physics-constrained optimization. Check out my software page for more information on some of my projects. In general, I think it is a very exciting time to be working in the areas where computational / numerical physics, machine learning, and optimization overlap. Along a related direction, I have been exploring how optical, acoustic, and other physics can be used to develop specialized hardware platforms for machine learning and analog computing. I think this is currently a very exciting research direction. Feel free to check out some of my recent papers for more information on these ideas.

During my PhD, I worked on several projects that spanned a large part of the electromagnetic spectrum, ranging from microwave and terahertz frequencies to the optical regime. One of these projects led to the development of a microwave fiber transmission line with engineered attenuation for applications in broadband sensing and communications. I also led several efforts to engineer graphene nanostructures for light-matter interaction and optomechanics at terahertz frequencies. The last project of my PhD led to the development of a design for integrated magnet-free nonreciprocal optical devices and involved novel finite element simulation techniques for modeling dynamic modulation.

Copyright Ian Williamson.