The over-arching mission of the research group is to develop novel nonlinear materials and integrated optical devices that can be used in portable disease diagnostics and telecommunications. Our research efforts include a wide range of topics including materials synthesis, integrated optics and instrument development, cell/bacteria growth, mechanical characterization of tissue, and computational modeling. Clearly, this is a wide range of topics. Not surprisingly, the most common question asked of anyone in the group is: how do all of the projects tie together? (Or do they tie together?)
To truly make transformational change in any field, it is necessary to take a large step back, evaluate the current state of art, and solve the fundamental issues. This analysis has resulted in our pursuing projects in material synthesis in order to impact telecommunications, developing new nanomaterial imaging agents to better understand how nerves communicate, and developing new algorithms to improve the accuracy of the data analysis in bacteria growth - just to name a few. This strategy will most likely not change.
Representative projects for each area (materials, photonics and biology) are summarized below and on the specific topic webpage. However, given the breadth of the activity and the frequency with which new projects are started, not all of the research is contained on this website. In all topic areas, we perform modeling (FEM, FDTD). Afterall, without a fundamental understanding of your data, it is not possible to move the research forward.
Our materials research is focused on the development of new non-linear optical materials (though additional projects exploring other types of materials have been pursued). We use a range of deposition and growth methods, including polymerization reactions (grafting to/from), spin-coating, and VLS growth, to create the materials. This flexibility has enabled the development of UV responsive polymers, biodegradable materials, and fluorescent nanomaterials for flexible photonics, smart sensors, and nanotherapeutics applications.
By combining advances in materials and/or optics, we are creating new approaches for detecting and characterizing biological systems, such as tissue slices and blood samples. For example, by developing a new nanoparticle with enhanced optical properties, we can improve imaging performance or by developing a fully integrated mechanical profiler, we can create a portable system for characterization tissue elasticity. Many of these projects also involve bioinformatics components and collaborations with the medical school to accelerate translation.
We are actively engaged in developing new types of resonant and non-resonant optical devices for both telecomunications and bio/chem characterization applications. By combining our new materials with existing or new optical device geometries, we can create and study new physical phenomena or create new approaches for characterizing biological/chemical systems.
As a complementary effort to our experimental work, we perform a significant amount of FEM and FDTD modeling. While the FDTD modeling (Lumerical) is primarily used for modeling the optical devices, the FEM modeling (COMSOL Multiphysics) is used for modeling the complex interactions which occur in all of the systems we study, and include multiple physical parameters, such as mechanical, thermal, kinetic and optical behavior. We leverage both our own workstations as well as the University Cluster.