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November 7, 2005

Cutting-Edge Research at the Speed of Light

The science of light – photonics – is as ubiquitous as oxygen in today’s technology driven world. Go to the grocery store, make a phone call, listen to a CD or watch a movie on DVD and odds are photonics made it possible.

UMBC is fortunate to be at the forefront of the photonics field, thanks to the Center for Advanced Studies in Photonics Research (CASPR), where exciting advances in basic science and novel applications are being made.

CASPR unites the efforts of prominent photonics researchers throughout UMBC into a single interdisciplinary collaborative center of nearly 20 researchers drawn from UMBC's Departments of Computer Science & Electrical Engineering, Physics, Math & Statistics and Chemical & Biochemical Engineering, plus 20 graduate students. The center is supported under grants from NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, the National Science Foundation, Naval Research Laboratories, Army Research Laboratories and the Army Research Office.

Current CASPR investigations involve a broad spectrum of future-looking technologies including:


  • theoretical and experimental research in ultra-broadband optical telecommunications by Gary Carter, Yung J. Chen, Tulay Adali, Curtis Menyuk, John Zweck, Susan Minkoff, and Joel Morris;

  • fabrication and studies of photonic semiconductor materials, optical devices, and electronic structures for new generations of spaceborne high-power/high-temperature lasers, terahertz radiation generation, high speed single photon detectors, and sensors by Fow-Sen Choa, Terry Worchesky, Michael Hayden, and Li Yan;

  • studies of optical properties of nanostructures and other novel materials in an Ultrafast Optics Laboratory by Anthony Johnson and Elaine Lalanne;

  • science of quantum photon entanglement and its applications, such as precision clock synchronization, remote spectroscopy, and remote lensless imaging by Yanhua Shih, Morton Rubin, and Arthur Pittenger.

For a full description of current and future CASPR projects please visit the CASPR web site to view or download the 2004 and 2005 CASPR Annual Reports.

CASPR director Anthony Johnson is not only focused on pushing the boundaries of research in his field, but is also determined to change the face of science in America.

Johnson, a past president of the Optical Society of America, was drawn to UMBC because of its strong photonics research foundation. He got his start at Bell Laboratories in the same Cooperative Research Fellowship Program as UMBC Graduate School Associate Dean Janet Rutledge. Rutledge and longtime photonics colleagues Menyuk and Carter encouraged him to apply to lead CASPR.

One project that Johnson and CASPR are eagerly awaiting news about is UMBC’s participation in Mid-Infrared Technology for Health and the Environment (MIRTHE). The $17 million NSF proposal teams CASPR and UMBC with lead institution Princeton University, the Johns Hopkins University, Rice University, Texas A&M University and the City University of New York.

“Our team has made it to the final nine from 110 pre-proposals and is a strong competitor to make the final cut to four funded proposals,” he said. “This would be a major engineering center at UMBC if we are selected. We are incredibly excited about the future of CASPR.”

Johnson’s optimism for the future of CASPR is tempered by concern about the big picture for American science. “We’re so used to being number one, but it’s not at all clear that we’re going to stay number one in science and technology,” he said. “We need to wake up and provide better support for our federally funded research, because that’s where our innovations come from.”

Posted by crose at November 7, 2005 7:10 PM