► Center for Research Excellence in Optical Sciences and Applications
Funding Amount: $5,000,000 (2012-2017)
The Center for Research Excellence in Optical Sciences and Applications (CREOSA) was established and funded by the National Science Foundation in 2007. CREOSA was renewed in 2012 (Phase II) to strengthen its multidisciplinary program of research, education and outreach in optical sciences. Built on the a diverse group of researchers, students, and staff, CREOSA will emerge as a sustainable unit that seeks to achieve national prominence in research and education in optical sciences with a strong commitment to educate, retain, train, and prepare traditionally underrepresented groups in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Our research activities will focus on integrating complementary experimental and analytical approaches to (1) Perform cutting-edge research in optical sciences; (2) Provide stimulating education experience in optical sciences with a focus on serving historically underrepresented groups in STEM; (3) Improve the research infrastructure in at DSU; and (4) Broaden participation and enhance diversity in optical sciences’ research and STEM workforce from underrepresented groups at the K-12, undergraduate, graduate students, post-doctoral researchers and faculty levels. For the next five years, we propose three collaborative research subprojects entitled “Spectroscopy and Imaging of Biomacromolecules in Crowded and Complex Media” , “Spin Polarization Spectroscopy in Nanodiamond for Nanoscale Sensing and Imaging”, and “A System for Interactive Data Mining in Experimental Optics”. These subprojects are integrated coherently through the ever-growing field of optical sciences, offering both fundamental challenges and great transformative potential for innovative discoveries and inventions. They have been designed to provide opportunities for value added resulting from inter-relations, leverage, synergy, and cross-fertilization and are scientifically more productive than the sum of the three subprojects.
Intellectual merit: During phase I, CREOSA developed a strong research infrastructure that provided a foundation for our research and education program in optical sciences with focus on designing methodologies for detection and identification of proteins. During phase II, we direct our efforts toward investigating the structural and dynamical properties of specific proteins as well as three polysacharrides and RNA’s embedded in different polymeric media. These studies will result in better understanding of diverse biomacromelcules in a structured medium and testing the limits of our proposed optical-based approach, paving the way for the development of a precise detection and accurate identification method of biomacromolecules embedded in a medium. This will be achieved by implementing an integrative approach at the interface of optics, biophysics, biochemistry, and computation. It incorporates state-of-the-art high-resolution optical imaging, and spectroscopic methods such as laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy, photo-thermal lensing spectroscopy, fluorescence correlation spectroscopy, and fast 3D light-sheet illumination microscopy. We will investigate BMs that may serve as biomarkers for diseases and/or those of interest in nanomedicine. Not only will this research provide a better understanding of the fundamental aspects of BMs in their host environments but also will potentially yield new discoveries and technologies for medical diagnostics of early signs of diseases such as cancers.
Broader impact: During phase I, CREOSA was instrumental in integrating research and education at DSU and launched the only PhD program in optics at a historically black college and university. This program has already produced about 33% more minority PhD’s than 8 major optics programs in the US combined with a PhD retention rate of 87%. During phase II, CREOSA, will have tremendous effect on the workforce development from underrepresented groups in the STEM area. CREOSA targets to produce at least 10-15 minority PhD’s in optical sciences in next five years with a retention rate of at least 90%. At the same time we expect to produce at least 25 MS graduates in optical sciences who will be encouraged to pursue a PhD in a STEM discipline. Thus, we expect to enhance significantly the much needed diversity of the workforce in optical sciences by broadening participation of underrepresented groups in research and education from K-12, undergraduate, graduate students, post-doctoral researchers and faculty level. In addition, we will strive to move CREOSA to the next level by building and sustaining collaborations with national and international academic institutions, federal laboratories, and corporations. The proposed research will also strengthen the research infrastructure at DSU by expanding and enhancing substantially the capabilities of the imaging facility and CREOSA laboratories. We expect the in-depth understanding of BM’S will provide a solid foundation for the development of novel biosensors and bioinstruments, which are of paramount importance in biotechnology and medical technology. This research will contribute to society in many aspects and in particular by educating, saving lives, reducing the cost of healthcare, and creating new high paying jobs.