Assistant ProfessorThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Campbell Hall 345
(205) 934-0340

Research and Teaching Interests: Quantum/nanoscale Physics; Design, Simulation, and Fabrication of Nanostructured Electronic Materials for Energy and Optoelectronic Applications; Advanced Optical Microscopy; Ultrafast Time-resolved Spectroscopy

Office Hours: By appointment


  • B.S., Berea College, Physics and Mathematics (Magna cum Laude)
  • Ph.D., Vanderbilt University, Nanofabrication and advanced optical spectroscopy of hybrid phase-change/plasmonic systems
  • Goldhaber Fellow, Brookhaven National Laboratory (CFN)

I am originally from Mauritius, an island nation in the Indian Ocean. In 2004 I move to the United States to pursue my undergraduate studies at Berea College, graduating with bachelor degrees in Physics and Mathematics. After a research internship at IBM Almaden Center, I became interested in optics and the physics of phase-change materials for its potential applications in modulators and memory devices. I joined Vanderbilt University in 2008; under the tutelage of Professor Richard Haglund I conducted my doctoral work on designing, 3D-simulation, nanofabrication, and ultrafast optical characterization of hybrid nanosystems that combined plasmonic metamaterial elements with vanadium dioxide — a phase-change material that can undergo an insulator-to-metal transition in less than one millionth of one millionth of a second (a picosecond).

Research Opportunity

I am currently accepting Masters and Ph.D. students to conduct research in my group. Undergraduates seeking to gain experience in the field of optics and nanotechnology are welcome as well; research projects will vary based on past experience and can span a semester to a full academic year. Please visit the group website and email me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for more information.

After earning my Ph.D. in 2012, I joined Brookhaven National Laboratory as a Goldhaber Fellow, working with Dr. Matthew Sfeir at the Center for Functional Nanomaterials. There, my research aimed at understanding microscopic processes that occur on ultrafast timescale and are critical to determining the overall efficiency of energy-to-fuel conversion. Building advanced time-resolved optical experiments that probed these microscopic interactions of nanostructures during device operation, that is in situ, was my major accomplishment.

In 2016, I joined the Physics faculty of UAB and currently manage the Laboratory for Advanced Materials and Photophysics. My research group focuses on the design, fabrication, and advanced optical characterization of nanoarchitectured systems for optoelectronic and energy applications. Simulating the optical response of these novel hybrid nanostructures using full-field 3D electromagnetic solvers is also an integral part of my group’s research.

Research Interests

Our research goal is to understand how light couples with artificially engineered 3D materials so as to design hybrid nanostructures with enhanced functionalities. An example of such functionality is controlling the properties of light like absorption, refraction, or scattering while modifying intrinsic processes that represent fundamental limits to the efficiency and reliability of energy-conversion and optoelectronic devices. Studying how these microscopic interactions — like carrier-carrier, carrier-phonon, or strongly correlated interactions — are modified in situ (i.e. under operating device conditions) is a major theme of the group.

Specifically, the intellectual merit of our research is to address these overarching scientific questions:

  1. How nanomaterial characteristics (crystal structure, size, morphology and interface) or their surrounding electromagnetic environment dynamically modify atomic and electronic degrees of freedom.
  2. How the assembly of similar or dissimilar nanostructures result in emergent phenomena, and how to develop systematic methods to probe and enhance such desired macroscopic nonlinear effects.
  3. How are intrinsic processes modified during (a) device operation or (b) growth/assembly?

We are equally interested in developing novel applications based on our research. Exploring the potential of complex materials/phase-change and plasmonic materials towards applications in optoelectronics, photonics, energy-to-fuel conversion, and biosensing are few examples.

Recent Courses

  • Quantum Physics

Select Publications

See a complete list of Dr. Appavoo's publications on his Google Scholar page.

Academic Distinctions & Professional Memberships

Academic and Research Distinctions:

  • Goldhaber Distinguished Fellowship, Brookhaven National Laboratory, 2013-2016
  • 1st prize poster at 2014 Material Research Symposium (MRS), Spring Meeting, 2014
  • Roger Kelly 1st prize International Award for Lasers in Materials Science, 2012
  • Vanderbilt Graduate School Dissertation Enhancement Award, 2012
  • 1st prize posters at 10th and 12th Vanderbilt Nanoscale Science and Engineering Forum, 2009 and 2011
  • Vanderbilt Institute of Nanoscale Science and Engineering Graduate Fellow, 2008-2011
  • 1st place Kentucky Academy of Science Undergraduate Research awards, 2006 and 2007
  • Ballard-McConnell-Willis Scholarship for excellence in Mathematics, 2006-2008
  • Phi Kappa Phi, Mortar Board, and Pi Mu Epsilon Honor Society, 2006-2008

Professional Societies:

  • American Physical Society (APS)
  • Material Research Society (MRS)
  • The Optical Society (OSA)

Student Groups

  • Asian Student Union
  • African Student Union