Ultrafast Meets Ultrasmall: Exploring the Uncharted Territory of Quantum Dynamics

A remarkable convergence of techniques and technologies now enables condensed matter to be simultaneously probed at the single atom level and on the shortest of timescales, providing exciting snapshots — and, indeed, full-blown movies — of the interplay of structure, chemistry, and electron dynamics in an expanding variety of systems and materials. Inspired by recent tour de force demonstrations of the combination of ultrahigh resolution scanning probe microscopy with femtosecond pump-probe spectroscopy, the Ultrafast Meets Ultrasmall symposium brought together two hitherto rather disconnected communities – namely, probe microscopists and ultrafast spectroscopists – to share ideas and discuss the immense potential of this emerging area.

It was, by any measure, an exceptionally successful symposium, whose signature dynamic is perhaps best captured by the Rank Prize organisation’s own words: “We discuss. We debate. We challenge. We spur each other on and make connections that last.” What was particularly impressive, and again fully in line with the Rank Prize’s motivations and mission, was the extremely high quality of the presentations and contributions from the early career researchers. The organising committee faced a significant challenge in selecting prize-winners from the very many fascinating and engaging talks that were delivered. These ran the gamut of the symposium’s scientific drivers, spanning scanning probe studies of single atoms, molecular adsorbates, and self-assembled nanostructures to spectroscopic probes of new quantum materials, spin control in a variety of systems and environments, and, to borrow a term introduced by one of the ECRs, ultrafast nanoscopy.

After much discussion amongst the members of the organising committee, the Best Presentation prizes were awarded to Lisanne Sellies (University of Regensburg) for “Single-molecule electron spin resonance by means of atomic force microscopy”, and to Matthew Oakes (University of Liverpool) for “A robust chiral molecular grating on Cu(111)”. Both prize-winners represented the very best of what the symposium had to offer: engaging presentations combined with inspiring scientific advances.  


Professor Jonathan Knight (University of Bath, Rank Prize Optoelectronics Committee)

Dr Alex Clark (University of Bristol)

Professor Philip Moriarty (University of Nottingham)

Dr Kristina Rusimova (University of Bath)