Optics for Space Technology & Applied Research Center (NASA-MIRO)
Principal Investigator: Mukti M. Rana, Ph.D.
Funding Amount: $5,000,000 (2015-2020)
NASA-MIRO Optics for Space Technology & Applied Research Center (O*STAR Center) at Delaware State University was established and funded by NASA in 2015. O*STAR will be a sustainable unit and will seek to achieve excellence and national prominence by providing a quality higher-education program, and a distinctive research portfolio in the NASA-relevant fields of Optical Science and Technology (OST). For the next five years O*STAR will (1) conduct cutting-edge, innovative research and disseminate new knowledge in OST, (2) provide comprehensive education and training programs in optics and photonics to traditionally underrepresented students, and (3) build a robust and sustainable center with state-of-the-art infrastructure and scientific expertise to be continually engaged in the technologies that serve space exploration. These goals are well-aligned with those of the NASA-MIRO program to (1) expand the nation’s base for aerospace research and development by fostering new aerospace research and concepts in technology development; (2) develop mechanisms for increased participation by faculty and students at Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs) in the research programs of NASA’s Mission Directorates; and (3) increase the number of undergraduate and graduate degrees awarded to students from MSIs in NASA-related fields.
The research focus of O*STAR center will be centered on two primary NASA mission directorates: Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD), and the Science Mission Directorate (SMD). O*STAR center’s research is focused on four research topics: (1) Laser induced breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS) investigations for planetary exploration and for the detection of bio-macromolecules in complex environments, (2) High-resolution sodium-LIDAR altimetry and spectroscopy for MLT science studies, (3) Sensors and imaging systems (SIS) for ultra-sensitive detection of chemicals and nano-particles in planetary environments, and (4) Design and fabrication of pyroelectric detectors with nanometer size studs. These research projects will contribute to future NASA missions by developing and maturing cutting edge technologies and instruments.
The O*STAR center will collaborate with Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC), Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), University of Massachusetts, Lowell, University of Delaware, Muhlenberg College, Delaware Technical and Community College, Delaware Aerospace Education Foundation and local school districts of Delaware on various projects, educational and outreach activities, building strong relationships between the today’s scientists and technologists and the students who will join them in the future. Thus, we expect to enhance 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.