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Ultrafast laser technology research in Kansas, Nebraska receives federal grant

Fri, 08/08/2014

LAWRENCE – How light interacts with matter is one of the grand challenges of atomic, molecular and optical research. A Kansas and Nebraska consortium led by university researchers has received a three-year, $6 million award to understand ultrafast molecular processes on the order of a millionth of a billionth second, or one femtosecond. The award is divided equally between the two states.

The project, Imaging and Controlling Ultrafast Dynamics of Atoms, Molecules, and Nanostructures, is part of the National Science Foundation’s Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (NSF EPSCoR).  Kristin Bowman-James, project director of Kansas NSF EPSCoR and a university distinguished professor of chemistry at the University of Kansas, and her counterpart at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UN-L), Fred Choobineh, professor of industrial and management systems engineering, are the lead principal investigators responsible for project oversight.

Research activities in the two states involve 30 people and are led by Anthony Starace, professor of physics at UN-L, and Itzik Ben-Itzhak, university distinguished professor of physics at Kansas State University.

 “We’re extremely excited about the project,” Bowman-James said. ”This is a tremendous opportunity to build on EPSCoR-funded linkages between KU and Kansas State by partnering with researchers in Nebraska. NSF support for multidisciplinary, multi-institutional projects such as this is absolutely crucial for understanding highly complex scientific processes, and we are very grateful for their commitment.”

During the project, physicists, chemists and electrical engineers will develop scientific, technological, experimental and theoretical tools to both understand these very fast processes and, even more challenging, to control them. These tools can ultimately be applied to laser technology, solar energy capture, nanotechnology and even optogenetics (studying light sensitive neurons in the nervous system). Education, outreach and workforce development activities will involve partnerships with small colleges in Nebraska, summer workshops for high school physics teachers and a host of programs for students.

The Kansas-Nebraska consortium is one of three funded this summer by NSF. The others are Louisiana-Mississippi and Arkansas-Missouri. Collectively, these three awards involve researchers from about 20 universities in the six states and will result in science and engineering research, education and outreach to accelerate progress on nationally important scientific challenges.

Photo: Diocles Extreme Light Laboratory at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Image courtesy of the Communications Department of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.



Matt Menzenski, a graduate student in Slavic languages & literatures, took this photo during President Obama’s speech at KU Thursday. Menzenski says he was struck by how relaxed the president was in his delivery. He missed a chance to hear former President Bill Clinton speak in his hometown in 2004, but finally got to see a sitting president this week at KU. “The opportunity to hear the president speak is just one of many great opportunities I've had at KU. So many interesting talks and events happen here all the time. I try to attend at least one a week-- it's never hard to find something interesting to go to.” Tags: University of Kansas College of Liberal Arts and Sciences KU School of Languages, Literatures & Cultures KU Dept of Slavic Languages - Friends & Alumni Barack Obama The White House #exploreKU #POTUSatKU

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Explore KU: The Bells of Mount Oread KU’s Campanile, a 120-foot-tall timepiece that tolls automatically on the hour and quarter-hour, not only sounded in the 2015 New Year at midnight with 12 mighty gongs, but also regularly rings up memories for many Jayhawks – the 277 faculty and students who gave their lives during World War II, the graduates who walk through its doors at commencement, and aspiring students who have strolled through the Lawrence campus. (See http://bit.ly/1xjjwJj). For nearly 60 years, KU’s 53-bell carillon has been tolling the sounds of peace and serenity across Mount Oread since it was installed in June 1955 inside the landmark World War II Memorial Campanile, which was dedicated in 1951. (See http://bit.ly/1BoL9jv) The carillon is also a four-octave musical instrument, which is played with a giant keyboard and foot pedals. University Carillonneur Elizabeth Egber-Berghout (http://bit.ly/14fiBPl), associate professor of carillon and organ, climbs 77 steps up a spiral staircase in the bell tower to perform recitals several times a month.


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