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Engineering Professor Receives $400,000 NSF Grant

By:    Published 11:14 am / September 15, 2009


Wan Kuang

Boise State assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering Wan Kuang has been honored by the National Science Foundation (NSF) with a $400,000 CAREER grant. It is the NSF’s most prestigious award for early career faculty, given annually to individuals who exemplify the role of teacher-scholar through the integration of outstanding research and education.

Kuang received a B.S. and M.S. in electrical engineering from the Chongqing University of Post and Telecom in China and a Ph.D. in electrical engineering from the University of Southern California, Los Angeles. This is his fifth year on the faculty of Boise State’s College of Engineering.

Kuang’s winning proposal concerns nanophotonics, the purpose of which is to scale optical devices and components down to their ultimate size limits. He is developing numerical models to simulate photonic devices on the nanometer scale and lab experiments to verify these models. The broad aim of the project is to enable carefully engineered patterns of nanoparticles, creating what Kuang calls a wave guide.

“A nanoparticle optic wave guide exists, but the understanding of it is relatively rudimentary and doesn’t take into account many electron transport properties. I will develop a theory to bridge the gaps in understanding so we can manipulate optical properties in more than one way,” Kuang said.

While real-world applications will require a lot more research, Kuang’s work has the potential to contribute to dramatic increases in the efficiency and quality of communication devices, from the speed of Internet connections to the clarity of television and computer displays.

“There has been some pretty explosive research in this area in the last 10 years,” Kuang said, “but in Idaho, there is relatively little research going on in optical devices and the optical properties of materials. This is our opportunity to establish this kind of research as a strength of Boise State.”

On the education side, Kuang already advises graduate and undergraduate students in his research lab, and the CAREER grant will allow him to expand such opportunities. He hopes to develop classes for Boise State’s doctoral program in electrical and computer engineering and more lab facilities for undergraduate courses, and he is developing an outreach program for students in grades 8-12 focused on energy conservation. The recipient of many grants, Kuang also received a $627,185 grant from the NSF’s Major Research Instrumentation program for acquisition of a femtosecond laser source and measurement system.