The University Record, March 14, 1994

NSF awards $13.9 million for continued advanced optics and laser technology research

By Sally Pobojewski
News and Information Services

The U-M has been awarded $13.9 million by the National Science Foundation (NSF) to continue research, education and technology transfer programs at the Ultrafast Optical Science Center for an additional five years.

Since its establishment in 1990, scientists at the NSF Science and Technology Center for Ultrafast Optical Science have been studying ultrashort pulse lasers and their applications to basic science and technology—such as ultrahigh-speed communications, computers and medical imaging.

The U-M Center is the only one of its kind in the United States. An interdisciplinary effort associated with the Applied Physics Program, it involves about 20 faculty and 25 students from the College of Engineering and LS&A.

Approximately one-half of the Center’s funding is provided by NSF. The remainder comes from the U-M, the state of Michigan and private contributions.

“Ultrashort optical pulse research has had and will continue to have an enormous impact on future advances in medicine, high-speed electronics and communications,” says Gerard A. Mourou, who directs the Center. Mourou is a professor of electrical engineering and computer science and member of the Applied Physics Program.

“In medicine, ultrashort pulses could make high-precision laser surgery possible, and development of femtosecond holography could one day replace diagnostic X-rays,” Mourou says. “In biological research, scientists could use laser-like X-rays to produce three-dimensional ‘snapshots’ of microscopic structures within living cells.”

In addition to an extensive research program, the Center has pre-college, undergraduate and graduate education programs, including outreach efforts for women and minorities. An active industrial affiliates program ensures that private industry is involved in research developments.

The Center’s associate directors include: Associate Director for Science Philip H. Bucksbaum, professor of physics; Associate Director for Education Herbert Graves Winful, associate professor of electrical engineering and computer science; and Associate Director for Industry Liaison Peter Pronko.

NSF established its Science and Technology Centers Research Program in 1987 to promote basic research on “complex problems that are large scale, of long duration and that require special facilities or collaborative relationships.”