August 22, 2007

Professors William Jemison ’85, Andrew Kortyna, and Todd Wey Receive NSF Grant for State-of-the-Art Equipment

Grant will help continue undergraduate research projects

William Jemison ’85, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering, Andrew Kortyna, assistant professor of physics, and Todd Wey, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering, recently obtained a Major Research Instrumentation grant for $257,762 from the National Science Foundation (NSF). The grant will be used to purchase additional equipment to continue electronic and optical telecommunications research.

“Electronic and optical telecommunications play a significant social and economic role in modern information-based societies,” Jemison explains. “The development of novel techniques, circuits, and materials to support new telecommunications applications is critical to maintaining innovation in the telecommunications field, thereby allowing more people access to greater amounts of information.”

Jemison believes it is very necessary for smaller institutions like Lafayette to provide access to the same equipment as larger institutions.

“It is extremely important for faculty members at small colleges to have internal experimental capability,” he says. “Otherwise, little significant work can be done at the college, which either will force a faculty member to spend too much time at other research centers or will isolate the faculty member from current work.”

Though Jemison has established a sturdy research program and has made significant leaps in his ongoing telecommunications research, he believes continued progress depends on the use of higher microwave frequencies and optical domain monitoring. He says that having the necessary equipment available at Lafayette will not only help to support and enhance his, Kortyna’s, and Wey’s research, but it will also allow them to continue involving students.

“This grant will enable us to train undergraduates in the use of advanced equipment and experimental methods and to prepare students for entry into outstanding graduate programs as well as the electronics and communications industry workforce,” he says.

Numerous students who have performed researched with Jemison, Kortyna, and Wey have gained entry into prestigious postgraduate programs as well as continued to succeed in doctorate programs and in the workforce. Several of these students have also received the support of NSF grants for their own research.

“A significant part of mentoring is the integration of research and education through the involvement of undergraduates in a meaningful research experience,” Jemison says. “This type of mentoring can, more than any other faculty function, significantly affect students’ lives in a positive way. Experiences and achievements obtained through mentoring can open doors to outstanding graduate school, fellowship, and job opportunities.”

Additional purposes for the equipment include in-class demonstrations of measurement techniques and enhancing the educational opportunities for faculty members and their undergraduate and graduate students at neighboring institutions.

A dedicated teacher and mentor, Jemison has included numerous students in his research, and has coauthored at least 16 publications with undergraduates. He received a previous $124,254 grant from NSF for research on microwave-photonic techniques with the potential to improve high-speed wireless applications such as telemedicine, multimedia distribution, and advanced satellite and military communications.

Most recently, Jemison worked with electrical and computer engineering graduate Mark Lodato ’06 on simulations developed for the design of high-speed lasers. Lodato’s work earned him a Department of Homeland Security Undergraduate Scholarship.

Jemison mentored four students in research that led to Lafayette being the only institution to have an electrical and computer engineering major receive the Microwave Theory and Techniques Society Undergraduate/Pre-Graduate Scholarship from IEEE for four consecutive years. Prashant Poddar ’04, Guangxi Wang ’03, Soumya Chandramouli ’02, and Feiyu Wang ’01 all presented their work at the IEEE International Microwave Symposium and published papers with Jemison.

Jemison has presented his research at major international meetings and at educational and research institutions in the U.S. and Europe. This year, Jemison was among 268 electrical engineers named a Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) “for contributions to microwave photonics for radar and communications.” He earned his doctorate in electrical engineering from Drexel University and a master’s degree in engineering science from Pennsylvania State University.

This will now be the third NSF grant Kortyna has received for his research program focusing on atomic collisions. He previously received a $141,920 grant in 2003 and a $125,800 grant in May. Kortyna and his student research assistants are studying atomic collisions at low energies with the goal of better understanding molecular interactions.

Several future physicists have been involved with the project as research assistants. These include Timothy Bragdon ’04, who graduated with a B.S. in physics; Jonathan Farrar ’07, who graduated with a B.S. in physics and an A.B. in mathematics; Victor Fiore ’08 (Clarks Summit, Pa.), who is pursuing B.S. degrees in physics and chemistry; and Nicholas Masluk ’06, who graduated with a B.S. in physics.

Kortyna has been working in the field of cold molecular collisions for more than a decade. His previous grants include awards from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the German Academic Exchange Service, and the Sigma Xi Scientific Research Society. He regularly shares his research through articles published in scientific journals and conference presentations. Kortyna holds a Ph.D. in physics from Wesleyan University and a B.S. in physics from Juniata College.

Wey is planning to use the equipment for “performance measurements of timing generator systems such as crystal oscillators and phase-locked loops,” as he explains.

Previously involved in the PLL modeling research was electrical and computer engineering major Joanna Vetreno ’06 (Oakland, N.J.). Currently partaking in the crystal oscillator research is David Young ’08 (Bensalem, Pa.), a double major in electrical and computer engineering and AB computer science.

Wey brings significant experience from industry to the College. In 2000 he co-founded Catapult Technologies LLC, Limerick, Pa., which provides microelectric design services in analog and mixed-signal solutions in CMOS (complementary metal oxide semiconductor) processes, and served as its managing member. He holds a Ph.D. from Purdue University, M.S.E.E. from University of Texas at Dallas, and B.S.E.E. from Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology.

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