Eric Mazur

Eric Mazur

  • Balkanski Professor of Physics and Applied Physics
  • Area Chair for Applied Physics
  • Participant, Nanoscale Science and Engineering Center
  • Participant, Center for Nanoscale Systems


Professor Mazur and his group study the dynamics of molecules, chemical reactions, and condensed matter on very short timescales—down to femtoseconds (millionths of billionths of a second). Physics in this ultrafast regime can only be studied using light, specifically using short laser pulses. The intensity of these short laser pulses is enormous and allows the creation of conditions that approach those found in stars and study a host of new phenomena.

In one of the group's projects, femtosecond laser pulses are tightly focused in bulk transparent dielectrics creating a hot, micrometer-sized plasma which expands into the surrounding volume. These "microexplosions" alter the structure of the material on the nanometer scale creating features with applications in data storage, optical communication, and medicine. The group is currently investigating exciting possibilities for high-precision microstructuring of transparent solids and for minimally disruptive laser surgery.

In a second project, Professor Mazur's group uses ultrafast optical techniques to study highly non-equilibrium electron and lattice dynamics in semiconductors. With an ultrafast broadband spectrometer developed by the group, the electronic and structural response of semiconductors to intense optical excitation can be observed with unprecedented detail. These studies allow the group to answer basic questions about the dynamics of the electrons and atoms in a semiconductor when the two systems are far off equilibrium. In most semiconductors the electronic excitation drives a rapid structural phase transition which in turn drastically alters the electronic bandstructure. The group's experiments provide an unusual opportunity to observe these structural phase transitions as they occur.

A third project, which is currently receiving much attention in the national press, deals with novel, nanoscale structures that are produced by femtosecond laser-induced chemical etching of silicon. Professor Mazur and his group recently discovered that irradiation of silicon surfaces with femtosecond laser pulses in the presence of a halogen containing gas transforms the flat, mirror-like surface of a silicon wafer into a forest of microscopic spikes. The spiked surface is strongly light-absorbing: the surface of silicon, normally gray and shiny, turns deep black. The optical and electronic properties of this "black silicon" turn out to be remarkable: the material's absorption is nearly one over the entire visible range and even in the infrared range where silicon is normally transparent. Even more surprisingly, the enhanced absorption results in photocarrier production at wavelengths near the band gap. Because silicon is the basic substrate of microelectronics and is also the material of choice for many optoelectronic devices such as solar cells and photodetectors, black silicon has many promising applications in remote sensing and telecommunications.

Contact Information

Office:Pierce 233
Office Phone:(617) 495-8729
Office Fax(240) 255-4622
Lab Name:Mazur Group
Lab Location:327 McKay
Lab Phone:(617) 495-9616
Assistant:Virginia Casas
Assistant Office:Pierce 289
Assistant Phone:(617) 496-1456

Primary Teaching Area

Positions & Employment

Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences/Harvard Department of Physics

  • 2007-Present: Balkanski Professor of Physics and Applied Physics
  • 1999-2004: Harvard College Professor
  • 1990-2007: Gordon McKay Professor of Applied Physics and Professor of Physics
  • 1988-1990: Associate Professor of Physics and of Applied Physics
  • 1984-1988: Assistant Professor of Physics and of Applied Physics
  • 1982-1984: Research Fellow
  • Present: Chairman, Scientific Advisory Board
  • 2005: Founder
Instructional Strategy Advisory Group, Turning Technologies
  • Present: Chairman
Allied Minds
  • Member of the Scientific Advisory Panel
Lifeboat Foundation
  • Member, Scientific Advisory Board

Panasonic Technologies Incorporated Boston

  • 1996-1998: Consultant
North East Research Associates
  • 1984-1988: Consultant
University of Leiden, Netherlands,
  • 1978-1981: Wetenschappelijk Medewerker

Other Experience & Professional Membership

  • American Physical Society, Fellow and Life member
  • American Association of Physics Teachers
  • Optical Society of America, Fellow
  • SPIE, the International Society for Optical Engineering
  • Board of Directors, SiOnyx Inc., Waltham, MA, 2005-2006
  • Editor, Handbook of Biophotonics, 2006-present
  • Nanoscale Informal Science Education Network Advisory Board, 2005-present
  • Organizing Committee, Symposium on Femtosecond Materials Science and Technology, MRS Spring 2001 Meeting
    NAS/NRC Committee on Programs for Advanced Study of Math and Science in American High Schools, 2000-present
  • Editorial Board, Journal of Science Education and Technology, 2000-Present
  • Advisory Committee, National Science Foundation, EHR Directorate, 1998-Present
  • National Visiting Committee, University of Washington, Physics Education Group, 1995-Present
  • Co-chair, Technology and Education Planning Committee, Harvard University, 1998-Present
  • National Visiting Committee, Puerto Rico NSF-CETP, 1998-Present
  • Member, NAS/NRC Physics Education Program Initiation Meeting, 1997
  • Steering Committee, American Assoc. of Physics Teachers, New Faculty Workshop, 1996-Present
  • Organizing Committee, Summer school on Laser Spectroscopy, Erice, 1995-Present
  • Advanced Placement Physics Development Committee, Educational Testing Service, 1995-Present
  • Committee on the Nomination of the Visiting Erasmus Lecturer, Harvard University, 1990-Present
  • Presenter, Presidential Committee of Advisors on Science and Technology, 1998
  • Organizer, NSF Faculty Enhancement Conference, Cambridge, 1998
  • American Physical Society, Committee on Education, 1995-1998
  • American Institute of Physics, Physics Programs Policy Committee, 1995-1998
  • National Visiting Committee, New Traditions Project, University of Wisconsin, 1996-1998
  • Visiting Commitee, United States Military Academy, West Point, 1995-1997
  • Workshop Chair, National Academy of Sciences/ Undergraduate Education Convocation, 1995
  • National Commitee on Science Education Standards and Assessment, 1993-1994
  • Organizing Committee, Nonlinear Optics and Ultrafast Phenomena Symposium, Chicago, 1988
  • Advisory Editorial Board, Physica, 1986-1989
  • Faculty Council, Harvard University, 1986-1989


  • Millikan Medal, AAPT, 2008
  • Corresponding Member, Royal Academy of Arts and Sciences of the Netherlands, 2008
  • Esther Hoffman Beller Medal, Optical Society of America, 2008
  • Fellow, Optical Society of America, 2008
  • Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Scholar, 2007
  • Baetjer Lectureship, Princeton University, 2007
  • Award of Distinction (Communicator Award) for Interactive Teaching DVD, 2006
  • Selected as one of 75 Outstanding Physicist, AAPT, 2006
  • Silver Remi Award, Houston International Film Festival, 2006
  • Forman Lectureship, Vanderbilt University, 2002
  • NSF Director's Distinguished Teaching Scholar Award, 2001
  • CSSP Award for excellence in educational research, 1999
  • Centennial Lecturer, American Physical Society, 1998-1999
  • William Mong Distinguished Lecturer, Hong Kong University, 1997
  • CIL Distinguished Lecturer, Carnegie Mellon University, 1997
  • Visiting Professor, National Taiwan University, Taipei, Taiwan, 1993
  • Visiting Professor, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Leuven, Belgium, 1992
  • First prize, American Institute of Physics Computers in Physics contest, 1991
  • M.A. Hon., Harvard University, 1990
  • Fellow, American Physical Society, 1989
  • NSF Young Presidential Investigator Award, 1988
  • C.J. Kok Prize, Netherlands, 1983
  • Ph.D. thesis Cum Laude, 1981
  • Fellowship from Italian Government, 1976

Patents Awarded

  • Dr. Mazur holds 12 patents.