Military Gives Grants to SFSU Lab
Department of Defense gives $500,000 in grants to optics research lab
April 29, 2006 10:04 AM
The laser is strong enough to burn through skin, but student researchers at SF State have figured out how to split, bend and manipulate it in all sorts of ways. According to them, they are opening the door to a new level of high-speed communication and data highways.
Led by graduate and undergraduate students, SF State’s Quantum Optics Research Lab produces cutting-edge research, which the Department of Defense, the National Science Foundation, and other private bodies have been very interested in. According to ZhiGang Chen, the lead investigator of the optics research lab, the military has pumped about $500,000 in grants into the lab.
“Most of the grants are used to support research,” said Chen, who has been an associate professor in the department of physics and astronomy since 1998.
Chen said some of the ways the grants help students support their research are by funding trips to conferences, paying for publishing fees for scientific journals, and also providing stipends. They have also provided resources for all the expensive equipment in each of the three optics labs.
According to graduate student and research team member Jack Young, the sugar-cube sized crystals used to split the laser cost $25,000 each.
“It’s exciting to know that Dr. Chen’s research competes with people with Ph.D.s and doctorate degrees, even when working with undergraduate and masters students,” said Anna Bezryadina, a graduate student and member of the research team.
The team said that right now they are doing fundamental research, such as testing ideas to determine the different things they can do with the laser. They are specifically looking at how the laser behaves and trying to see how they can control it through a crystal.
“A lot of people don’t know we have leading research in the world going on here,” said ChenThey see their research creating much faster communications with enhanced fiber optics, and possibly chips based on light and crystals instead of electricity and silicon like today’s electronics.
These potential technologies are the reason why the Department of Defense in particular has so much interest in the optics research lab, according to Chen. They could be the key to advancing the military to new capabilities.
The grants that Chen receives are facilitated through SF State’s Office of Research and Sponsored Programs. According to ORSP’s Web site, they help tenured and tenure-track faculty members “obtain and manage funds to support research, student training, and community-based projects.”
Senior personnel specialist Victoria Narkewicz said ORSP connects faculty members to hundreds of federal, state and private grants from all over the country. Some of the grants, like Chen's, are used on campus while many are used off campus. However, once approved by ORSP all grants are managed by SF State faculty members.
Through ORSP, advanced research like Chen’s is made possible at SF State.
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