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January 30, 2023

Jessica Shang with PhD students Nitish Acharya (at right) and Afreen Syeda (at left) at the Laboratory for Laser Energetics during an experiment they conducted last fall using the Omega laser. The students will take lead roles in conducting the corrugated shock and particle tracking experiments funded with a grant from the from the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration. (Photo provided by Jessica Shang)

Dear members of the Hajim School community,

Ideally, the onslaught of 60 converging, pulsed laser beams would cause a tiny fuel pellet to implode uniformly during fusion experiments at the Laboratory for Laser Energetics (LLE), causing deuterium and tritium isotopes to fuse and ignite into a controlled burn.

Instead, execution of this carefully orchestrated scheme is hindered by several complications, including instabilities and mixing between the capsule and the fuel plasmas, which are at very different temperatures and densities, interfering with the laser’s ability to achieve the compression needed for ignition.

Viscosity can be critically important in the implosion. With support of a $590,000 grant from the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration, a team of University of Rochester researchers led by principal investigator Jessica Shang, assistant professor of mechanical engineering, hope to demonstrate ways to measure—and thereby better understand—how viscosity dissipates energy in these plasmas.

The findings could lead to improvements in the design of experiments aimed at achieving fusion and a better understanding of the dynamics of warm dense matter in the formation and evolution of planets, including Earth, Jessica says. Learn more.


Robin Clark at left and Gina Eagan.

Congratulations to two of our Hajim School staff members who have received ACE Staff Recognition Awards. The awards recognize AS&E staff members who exemplify the University’s vision and values.

Robin Clark recently returned to the Department of Computer Science as the PhD program coordinator, and “has hit the ground running,” according to her nomination by Amanda Rigolo, academic operations manager. “During her transition from her previous department to CS, she remained helpful and available to her peers all the while learning new materials for her new position. She has the personality that lights up a room and makes everyone feel welcome and like they belong.”

Gina Eagan joined the Department of Biomedical Engineering last May as student programs assistant after working as a coordinator for the Materials Science program, and previously as graduate program coordinator in the Department of Chemical Engineering. “Gina goes out of her way to help!” says Victoria Heberling, CHE’s current graduate coordinator. “She has taken extra time to help the new coordinator in Materials Science . . . and when I started as a graduate coordinator in Chemical Engineering, I would have been lost without Gina’s help . . . Even when finding time to help others, Gina’s own work is always top notch,” Victoria says. Learn more.


GIDS director Mujdat Cetin, education program director Lisa Altman, deputy director Ajay Anand, and graduates Yue Zhao ’18, Lisa Pink ’22, Kaustubh Ganer ’22, and Mohamad Ali Kalassina ’22 describe the advantages of pursuing a master’s degree in data science at the University of Rochester.

“There is a huge need for a new generation of data scientists with the skills and the mindset to advance science and technology and benefit society,” says Mujdat Cetin, director of our Goergen Institute for Data Science (GIDS).  Check out this video about the “rich set of opportunities” for students to become part of this new generation through the GIDS master’s degree program.

For example, the program features highly qualified faculty doing research across multiple applications of data science. Capstone projects with major companies, nonprofits, and governmental agencies provide opportunities for students to work on real-world problems. And a strong network of alumni provides ongoing support and resources for GIDS graduates.


Antony Georgiadis

Our Grand Challenges Scholars Program (GCSP) invites undergraduates to pick one of 14 “grand challenges” of the 21st century, identified by the National Academy of Engineering (NAE). Students then tailor their academic experiences to address the challenge they’ve chosen, engaging in five key competencies: research, entrepreneurship, interdisciplinary studies, global experience, and service.

Antony Georgiadis ’23 of optics will be at the iZone from 3-5 p.m. this Wednesday and from 1-3 p.m. next Monday, February 6, discussing his GCSP project on Engineering the Tools for Scientific Discovery, especially his experience as an intern doing research on a sensor used for fusion experiments at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and his senior thesis working on a model of the James Webb Space Telescope.


Raquel Ajalik, a biomedical engineering PhD student, received the People’s Choice Award in last year’s Three Minute Thesis Competition, describing how a human tendon-on-a-chip device she designed could be used to screen drug candidates in a model of an injured human tendon to monitor if the drugs promote healing. Raquel is one of several Hajim School students who have won or placed well in this and similar Steadman Postdoctoral and Falling Walls competitions in recent years.

Registration is open through February 13 for this year’s competition, with finalists squaring off on Tuesday, April 4, from 3:45 to 6 p.m. Location details will be shared online once they are available. Explore this page for more details about the competition, including eligibility, prizes, and presentation rules and guidance. This is a great opportunity for doctoral students to sharpen their research focus, improve their presentation skills, and perfect their elevator pitches.


Left to right: Cherine Ghazouani, Bala Manian, and Alexis Vogt.

Bala Manian ’69 (MS), Alexis Vogt ’08 (PhD), and Cherine Ghazouani ’21 represent three generations of Institute of Optics alumni. Be sure to check out this story by Kristine Thompson of Advancement, talking with them about their fascination with the field, why optics is important, their proudest achievements, and what motivates them.

Bala, for example, is a Hajim School Distinguished Alumnus Award recipient and University life trustee. His achievements include developing the first laser scanner for the supermarket industry, earning an Academy Award certificate for technical achievement in the film industry, and creating medical testing and instrumentation technology and products.

“When I came to the Institute of Optics in 1967, I was excited to see how optics was at the foundation and the intersection of many fields. As a graduate student, I was part of an ecosystem that inspired us to make a difference, to become entrepreneurs, and to solve real world problems,” Bala says. “I was in a very distinctive cohort.”

Alexis, the endowed chair and professor of optics at Monroe Community College, leads the nation’s only two-year degree program that trains technicians for work in the precision optics industry. “I’m proud of the students at MCC. It’s incredibly rewarding to see them thrive. Many of them have changed their lives through this program,” Alexis says.

“It’s inspiring to get calls from local businesses and Google, Microsoft, and Amazon alike—they all want and need our graduates. The Rochester area has been, and continues to be, such a great place for optics.” Learn more about her achievements.

Cherine, a native of Tunisia, is an optical design engineer at ASML, a semiconductor company in Connecticut. “Many people assume I’m an optician or that I do something related to eyeglasses,” Cherine says. “I want people to know that optics is all this and more. My work actually has to do with the semiconductor industry, a field that has broad applications related to energy, manufacturing, transportation, and medicine. There’s so much potential with optics because, look around, everything is based on light and visuals.”

Involvement with the Industrial Associates program was a pivotal experience that has come “full circle,” she adds. “I got my first internship from an IA event, and today I work for that company, and I attend IA events as a recruiter.”

ECE IN 2022

2022 was a productive and eventful year in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. From special Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion events and celebrations to a student-built lunar robot; from a bevy of faculty and student awards to exciting research in integrated photonics and superconductive integrated circuits, there was much for the department to celebrate. Learn about these achievements—and more—from ECE’s 2022 newsletter.

Have a great week!

Your dean,
Wendi Heinzelman

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