University of Rochester

NSF Grant to Support Six Graduate Students in Area of Optics

November 1, 1995

The University of Rochester has been awarded $562,000 to attract six graduate students in the area of optics as part of a program by the National Science Foundation to strengthen optics research and education nationwide.

The funds, along with additional funding from the University, will be used to add students to research groups in three academic departments: optics, physics and astronomy, and mechanical engineering. Students will study topics ranging from fundamental optical physics to optics manufacturing.

"Optics is a critical technology," says Susan Houde-Walter, associate professor of optics. "Without optics many other technologies could not exist. For instance, the semiconductor industry depends on very high-precision lenses in the manufacture of computer chips."

Medicine is another area where even basic advances in optics are important. Devices that image the inside of the body, such as endoscopes, are key to early diagnosis and treatment and depend on scientists' ability to understand and manipulate how rays of light can carry information and are transmitted inside the body. The importance of optics to health care is not new: It wasn't until an optics scientist developed the diffraction theory of imaging late last century that microscopes acquired the resolution and magnification power to be useful in tracking and curing disease. tr