Rivka Bekenstein 2014-2015

Institution of PhD:
Technion – Israel Institute of Technology
Academic Discipline of PhD:
PhD Advisor/s:
Prof. Mordechai Segev
Dissertation Topic:
Gravitational Phenomena and Complex Wavepackets in Nonlinear Optical Systems
Institution of Postdoc:
Harvard University
Present Institution:
Racah Institute of Physics, Hebrew University

Rivka Bekenstein, raised in Jerusalem, has been interested in science since childhood. Following her military service, she began studying physics at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem. During her second year, while participating in an exclusive lab course supervised by Prof. Zvi Ovadiahu, she became interested in experimental physics. Her fascination with nonlinear physics came soon thereafter, in the course of her work on a research project in the laboratory of Prof. Jay Feinberg, and she chose to pursue this topic in graduate school.

Rivka is now pursuing a direct PhD at the Technion, in the Nonlinear Optics group led by Distinguished Professor Mordechai Segev. The group studies light-matter interactions, quantum simulations and a variety of other topics, both theoretically and experimentally. Rivka’s research focuses on gravitational phenomena in optical systems. Her short-term goal is to observe various optical phenomena that are analogous to gravitational effects. More specifically, she is exploring the dynamics of light in nonlinear materials and in curved geometries that are analogous to curved space-time in general relativity. To date, her research has resulted in several intriguing findings. For instance, she has found complex electromagnetic wavepackets that propagate on non-geodesic trajectories in non-trivial curved-space geometries. Likewise, she has recently demonstrated experimentally the optical analogues of gravitational tidal forces and redshift/blueshift in the vicinity of massive stars that are able to bend the space-time continuum.

The main goal of Rivka’s research is to demonstrate hitherto unobserved effects in quantum mechanics and gravitation, using nonlinear optical settings. Most importantly, she hopes to continue exploring new physical phenomena, theoretically and experimentally, and never to stop being fascinated by new findings.

Rivka is a 2015 winner of the Israel Physics Society Prize for graduate students in Theoretical Physics for her innovative work connecting general relativity with optics.