Center for Research and Education in Optical Sciences and Applications: Promoting Scientific Discoveries, Technological Advances, and STEM Education
The Center for Research and Education in Optical Sciences and Applications (CREOSA) was established at Delaware State University in 2006 as a NSF Center of Research Excellence in Science and Technology (CREST). The Phase II Center will build on accomplishments of the first 6 years of the program, with a continued focus on optical sciences and applied physics. The CREOSA has been leading systemic and transformative educational, research, and outreach programs at Delaware State University, a Historically Black University. A new doctoral program in Optics has been initiated (the only one at an HBCU), leveraged the CREST award to secure funds for construction of a new building dedicated to optics research, increased scholarly publications by a factor of 6, enabled the hiring of 9 new faculty members, licensed the first intellectual property for DSU, and provided graduate student training of a new generation of optical scientists, mostly from minority groups. The Center also was instrumental in creating a culture of innovative integration to foster interdepartmental and multidisciplinary research and education at DSU. The continued support by the NSF for CREOSA has enable Delaware State to achieve national prominence in optical sciences while serving the minority population of students that will attend and will be drawn to DSU.
CREOSA will be a sustainable unit that seeks to achieve national prominence in research and education in optical sciences with a strong commitment to educate, train, and prepare traditionally underrepresented groups in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).
CREOSA will integrate multi- and inter-disciplinary approaches to (1) Perform cutting-edge research in optical sciences; (2) Provide world-class education in optical sciences with a focus on serving historically underrepresented groups in STEM; (3) Improve the research infrastructure in optical sciences at DSU; and (4) Enhance significantly the diversity of the workforce with backgrounds in optical sciences by broadening participation of underrepresented groups in research and education at all levels which includes the population groups from K-12, undergraduate, graduate students, post-doctoral researchers, and faculty.
CREOSA will exploit the interdisciplinary nature of research activities across fields of optics, biology, biochemistry, mathematics and computational sciences. Three research subprojects form the foundation of the Center's research and educational activities:
1. Spectroscopy and Imaging of Biomacromolecules in Crowded and Complex Media
This subproject brings together optical sciences and biological sciences at the technological cutting edge. The research has the potential to attain unprecedented limits for the accurate detection, identification, and classification of diverse bio-macromolecules in their host environments. These biomolecules may serve as novel biomarkers for diagnosis and treatment of various diseases and are the key idea behind the rapidly developing research in the field of nanomedicine.
2. Spin Polarization Spectrosopy in Nanodiamond for Nanoscale Sensing and Imaging
The subproject team will investigate spectroscopic methods of studying nanoscale materials. The work complements the activity of the first subproject, in that it will provide avenues to probe single and/or complex biomacromolecules. These materials may provide an important driver in the development of solid-state quantum information processing.
3. A System for Interactive Data Mining in Experimental Optics
This subproject will link experimental optics with important elements of data mining. The research proposed in both of the first two subprojects will create a large amount of complex data, which will require an integrated approach in which data-driven machine learning techniques are coupled with idealized models and expert knowledge in the analysis of spectroscopic data. The techniques to be developed will help resolve the communication bottleneck that occurs when several scientists in multidisciplinary optics research collaborate and exchange experimental data and extracted information.
More than 65% of the students at Delaware State are African American, and the new doctoral program established from the Phase I award is an important resource for that population, both in terms of advanced graduate programs and as a model for the role of research in stimulating more students from underrepresented groups to pursue STEM degrees. A partnership with the Fisk-Vanderbilt doctoral bridge program has been initiated, which will stimulate pathways IN BOTH DIRECTIONS for these institutions. An active professional development program for graduate students will be initiated, concurrent with a well organized recruitment and mentoring activities. The program will also be at the heart of recruitment efforts for undergraduate students to matriculate in STEM fields at DSU and from URM groups in Delaware elsewhere, because of the high visibility of the optical sciences program.
DSU will continue outreach activities for pre-college students and the general community, such as a summer program that has prepared 89 students from 23 universities during the first five years, sponsorship of events such as open houses for the Delaware Science Alliance and Physics Days. The project will continue the enhancement of the curriculum at DSU, across several academic platforms. These include new tracks in electrical engineering, optical engineering, and bio-engineering in the Department of Physics and Pre-Engineering, as well as updates to the curricula for physics and physics education. New educational laboratories will be developed as part of the world-class imaging facilities that are part of a new building being constructed.
The research investigations have the potential for profound impact on human health and counterterrorism. The work will provide a stronger scientific foundation that could yield new technologies for medical diagnostics of early signs of disease and to detect pathogens used to fight bio-terrorism.
This award has been partially funded through the Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research at the National Science Foundation.