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Undergraduate Programs

Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU)

2018 Research Opportunities


Name:Andrew Berger
Department: The Institute of Optics
Research area:Optical spectroscopy for bone quality monitoring

Project Description

Optical spectroscopy for bone quality monitoring

X-rays scans are surprisingly bad at determining whether a particular bone is prone to fracture. Our group works on providing complementary chemical information about bones using vibrational (Raman) spectroscopy. 785-nm light interrogates the femurs and tibiae of mice by diffusing through overlying skin and muscle, scattering off of the bone, and diffusing back to the surface. Some of the scattered light comes back at longer wavelengths that encode information about the bone’s mineral and protein composition. REU students will help to extend this proven method to live-mouse measurements that can be performed over many weeks on animals undergoing various treatments related to bone research on humans.


Name:Nick Vamivakas
Department: The Institute of Optics
Research area:Quantum light-matter interfaces

Project Description

Quantum light-matter interfaces

A quantum single photon source (SPS) is highly desirable for applications in quantum information processing and secure communication. An ideal SPS should emit single photons deterministically or on-demand, and each photon should be indistinguishable with a high repetition rate and a high beta factor, which is the collection efficiency of the output photon into a desired electromagnetic mode. A platform for a SPS consists of a material and possibly a photonic structure that tailors the SPS emission properties. Particularly attractive for SPSs are solid-state quantum emitters since they can seamlessly integrate with nanophotonic devices and can serve as on-chip sources of quantum light in future integrated quantum photonic applications.

This REU project will focus on characterizing the optical properties of novel defect-based SPSs in atomically thin semiconductors. Recently we have discovered these single to few atom thick layers (the semiconducting analog of graphene) support intrinsic defects that can localize excitons and serve as a source of single photons. In parallel, the student will pursue approaches to tailor the radiative dynamics of the SPS by sculpting the local optical density of states via proximal nanophotonic structures. These devices can be both passive and active engendering a great deal of control and functionality to the SPS.


Name:Miguel Alonso
Department: The Institute of Optics
Research area:Modeling of novel wave phenomena

Project Description

Modeling of novel wave phenomena

Trapping forces from beams with unconventional polarizations. My group has defined new basis expansions for focused beams, based upon novel exact solutions of Maxwell’s equations that are nonparaxial analogs of the well-known Laguerre-Gaussian beams. We plan to generalize this formalism to study focused beams of arbitrarily complex shapes and polarizations, scattering off of non-spherical particles. In collaboration with Prof. Nickolas Vamivakas, we will study the trapping forces and torques exerted by strongly focused beams with unconventional polarizations, including so-called full Poincaré beams that contain all possible polarizations.

Single-shot measurement of polarization. The basis of this work is to place a mask with a spatially inhomogeneous birefringence distribution at the pupil plane of a focusing system. This mask is achieved by subjecting a glass window to a pressure distribution from their support with trigonal symmetry. The mask encodes the polarization of the incident light onto the shape of the focused intensity in an unambiguous way. This configuration has the ability to measure simultaneously, in a single measurement, the polarization of multiple sources, if the focusing system is used in an imaging configuration. So far, a requirement of the technique is that the object being characterized is sparse. The REU student will help to explore ways to relax or remove this requirement.


Name:Robert Boyd
Department: The Institute of Optics
Research area:Quantum communication

Project Description

Quantum communication

Advanced schemes for free-space quantum key distribution (QKD). We are studying QKD based on encoding in the orbital angular momentum (OAM) degree of freedom of light. OAM has enormous potential for use in high-capacity QKD, essentially because of the very large information content available through this sort of encoding. Basically, the OAM states reside in an infinite dimensional Hilbert space; there is thus no fundamental limit to how many bits of information can be carried by an individual photon when using this approach. Moreover, by making use of hyper-entanglement, one can encode simultaneously in several degrees of freedom, to increase data rates still further.

As attractive as OAM-QKD is, there are several challenges to its full deployment that REU students can help address as part of this research effort. (1) Continue to perfect our working OAM-QKD system by improving the various elements of this system, such as the OAM sorter and bright sources of entangled photons. (2) Paying close attention to developing means to mitigate the effects of propagation through severe atmospheric conditions. (3) Developing means to avoid the issue of long dead times associated with the use of APDs in QKD systems.


Name:Jake Bromage
Department: Laboratory for Laser Energetics (LLE)
Research area:Ultra-high power pulsed laser systems

Project Description

Ultra-high power pulsed laser systems

Laser diagnostic systems development. The student will work with an LLE staff scientist acquiring laser measurements and controlling instruments within the front end of the MTW-OPAL (multi-terawatt optical parametric amplifier line) laser. Scope includes developing LabVIEW software for acquisition and control, and MATLAB software for data analysis.

Ultrashort pulse compression. The student will work with an LLE staff scientist on building and testing the diagnostic compressor for the MTW-OPAL laser. Scope includes detailed system alignment, measuring ultra-broadband pulses before and after compression, and analyzing the results.


Name:Thomas Brown
Department: The Institute of Optics
Research area:Nanoscale polarization

Project Description

Nanoscale polarization

Single photon polarization measurements. This work will apply a new method of polarization measurement to the characterization of the polarization of very small numbers of photons and will seek to apply this method to novel quantum states of light.

Optical metrology for photonic systems. This work, carried out in conjunction with AIM Photonics, seeks to apply new quantitative imaging methods to solve difficult packaging and assembly problems for integrated photonics.


Name:Qiang Lin
Department: Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE)
Research area:Nano-optomechanics

Project Description

Nano-optomechanics

Integrated quantum photonics. The undergraduate(s) will participate in projects related to generating and manipulating photonic quantum states on chip-scale devices, aiming for intensive training on integrated photonic circuits, quantum photonic technology, and quantum information science in general.

Nanophotonic sensing. The undergraduate will participate in projects related to utilize nanophotonic devices for diverse sensing applications, such as particle/molecule sensing, acoustic sensing, inertial sensing, electromagnetic field sensing, etc. The goal is to provide comprehensive training of fundamental photonic sensing principles, nanophotonic device testing skills, and broad sensing applications and potentials.


Name:Jannick Rolland
Department: The Institute of Optics
Research area:Optical coherence tomography

Project Description

Optical coherence tomography

Imaging and Sensing with Laser Light. The objective of this project is to bring biophotonics technology developed in our laboratory to solving health care challenges. Students are involved in developing new parts of instrumentation or upgrades to some others in addition to looking into applications for which they may develop custom software. Some of the applications we have been investigating include guiding Mohs surgery, a surgical procedure performed in dermatology to remove cancer, non-invasive corneal imaging for ophthalmology, mapping of the elastic properties of tissues such as corneal and brain tissues, and mapping the physical properties of engineered tissue. All these projects involve strong collaborations with faculty across campus, including the Medical Center.


Name:Ben Miller
Department: Dermatology
Research area:Novel biosensors

Project Description

Novel biosensors

Optical biotarget detection. One potential REU research project in the Miller group will center on understanding the optical behavior of polymer microgel particles deposited on antireflective coatings. In preliminary work, we have used these materials to make sensitive multiplex biosensors, derivatizing individual microgel particles with antibodies to targets of interest. It is important to understand how polymer composition, particle size, and deposition density impact the observed reflectance signal indicative of binding. Undergraduates participating in this project will learn principles of thin film characterization (principally ellipsometry and interferometry), bioconjugation strategies, and dynamic light scattering.


Name:James Zavislan
Department: The Institute of Optics
Research area:Image-based medical instruments

Project Description

Image-based medical instruments

Multimodal noninvasive assessment of the ocular surface. Dry eye disease (DED) is common and adversely affects quality of life. Using instruments built with scientific-grade cameras and components customized for ocular applications, our group has demonstrated that statistically significant clinical sub-classifications of dry eye can be determined objectively and non-invasively using independent, non-simultaneous polarimetric lipid imaging and thermal imaging. This project will use the results of this previous research to build and test clinical prototypes that use commercially available components to characterize the lipid layer and aqueous tear layers.

Low-cost imaging of breast specimen tissue regions. Our research group has developed a combination of spectral and polarization macroscopic imaging that optically distinguishes between adipose and collagen tissues in clinical breast tissue specimens, thus highlighting regions suspected of containing epithelium in order to facilitate optical microscopy techniques. The color signature of adipose tissue can be used to determine regions of adipose tissue while collagen is located using intrinsic birefringent signatures. This project proposes to build a breast specimen imaging system utilizing optical components from a consumer flatbed scanner to assess the tissue composition of breast cancer specimens.


Name:Xi-Cheng Zhang
Department: The Institute of Optics
Research area:Quantum terahertz (THz) light sources

Project Description

Quantum terahertz (THz) light sources

Bright THz source and nonlinear field-matter interaction. This project will enable the REU student to (i) work with graduate students and postdoctoral associates in the most advanced photonics lab on generation and detection of THz waves with ultrafast laser pulses; and (ii) perform experimental and simulated investigations of THz wave nonlinear interactions with matter.