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New Optica Emerging Leader in Optics Chair

- Wits University

SA visionary and quantum expert, Dr Isaac Nape, has been appointed as the inaugural Chair that seeks to advance quantum research.

Wits University and Optica announced the creation of a faculty position in experimental quantum optics. The Optica Emerging Leader in Optics Chair will advance the University’s research efforts in structured light.

SA visionary and quantum expert, Dr Isaac Nape, appointed as inaugural Optica Emerging Leader in Optics Chair 

“With a top optics and photonics programme, Wits University is a hub for quantum research and a training ground for the next generation of scientists and engineers in quantum optics,” says Michal Lipson, the 2023 Optica President. “We see this new position as an extension of that work and are proud to collaborate with them to accelerate research opportunities.”

Serving as the inaugural Optica Emerging Leader in Optics Chair, Dr Isaac Nape will lead efforts in quantum information processing, focusing on communication and computation. Nape brings prestigious accolades with him to the position, having won the SAIP Silver Medal, the highest physics honour in South Africa for someone under 35 years of age, and achieving recognition on the 2023 list of the Top 200 Young South Africans to watch. In addition, in his short career, Nape has published 25 journal papers, which have gathered more than 1,150 citations in the past five years, and his impact continues.

“Dr Nape is a notable leader, researcher and scientist, but beyond these professional qualities, he’s also passionate about science,” says Andrew Forbes, Distinguished Professor in the School of Physics at Wits University. “These qualities make him an exceptional ambassador for our field and our institution, and we are thrilled to have him serving in this new capacity.”

“It’s a privilege to become the first Optica Emerging Leader in Optics Chair at Wits, and I’m honoured to assume the role,” says Nape. “I am fortunate to have great mentors, colleagues and partners on this journey, and I look forward to continuing our collaborations, as well as to future work efforts, and the results that will arise from them.” 

Professor Zeblon Vilakazi, Vice-Chancellor and Principal of Wits University, says that he is confident that Isaac Nape’s appointment will cement Wits’ reputation as a global leader in the field of quantum research.

“The work of the talented people in the Wits Structured Light Laboratory has already put Wits University, and indeed, South Africa, in the global spotlight, as far as quantum research is concerned. South Africa should remain at the frontier of this high-level research. In his short career, Dr Nape has already made massive contributions to global quantum research, and his appointment will, without a doubt, add deep value to the future of quantum research in South Africa.”

Having just celebrated 100 years of excellence and with a proud history of Nobel Prize-winning leaders, Wits University is renowned for its excellence in optics. This position will support a deeper focus on quantum information processing, particularly as it relates to communication and competition. For more information on the structured light programme at Wits University, visit

About the University of the Witwatersrand

The University of the Witwatersrand (Wits University) is renowned for its academic and research excellence, its commitment to social justice, and the advancement of the public good, for over 100 years. It is one of the leading institutions on the African continent that produces world-class research that is locally relevant and globally competitive. 

Wits is a global leader in structured light and related quantum research and, with the Structured Light Laboratory in the Wits School of Physics, is driving the national programme for quantum technologies: the South African Quantum Technology Initiative. The Structured Light Laboratory has pioneered Structured Light – the ability to tailor optical field – and its applications, particularly in quantum. Our focus on quantum optics and quantum communication is making both national and global impact, with the hope of harnessing a brighter future for all.

Wits offers a free space for the exchange of ideas and a vibrant intellectual community that fosters debate and knowledge transfer both within and beyond its lecture halls. Read about the latest Wits research.

About Optica

Optica (formerly OSA), Advancing Optics and Photonics Worldwide, is the society dedicated to promoting the generation, application, archiving and dissemination of knowledge in the field. Founded in 1916, it is the leading organisation for scientists, engineers, business professionals, students and others interested in the science of light. Optica’s renowned publications, meetings, online resources and in-person activities fuel discoveries, shape real-life applications and accelerate scientific, technical and educational achievement. Discover more at: