Three UCI School of Physical Sciences Faculty Earn Prestigious NSF Early Career Awards

Mon, 06/18/2018
UCI School of Physical Sciences Communications

Three faculty from the UCI School of Physical Sciences have received the prestigious National Science Foundation (NSF) Early Career Development Awards to support their research, which also includes educational programs for middle school through college-age students.

Our 2018 winners are assistant professors Franklin Dollar, Aomawa Shields and Tom Trogdon.

Franklin Dollar, Ph.D., assistant professor for the Department of Physics and Astronomy, was awarded the prestigious five-year NSF grant valuing at $680,000 for his project titled CAREER: Coherent Laser Control for Compact Accelerators.

Dollar’s project supports a study of how to coherently control the physics of laser-driven particle accelerators by manipulating laser properties such as the laser wavefront. Advanced particle accelerators based on lasers have the potential to dramatically reduce the size and duration of such sources, and could have immediate applications in medical isotope production and radiography. This award will also support development of the Culturally relevant Accelerator Research and Engineering for Native Americans (CARE-NA) program, which will train students with broad practical skillsets with ties to community and culture.

“This project is one of those high-risk, high-return endeavors the NSF Division of Physics is particularly fond of supporting," said National Science Foundation program officer Vyacheslav Lukin, who oversees Dollar's CAREER grant. "We will look forward to seeing Dollar take this research from studies of underlying plasma physics and optics to breakthroughs that may enable tabletop accelerators -- and their high-impact practical applications.”

“Accelerator science, and physics as a whole, can benefit tremendously from increased diversity and broad engagement with the public,” shared Dollar. “At UCI we wish to continue to lead in this arena across physical sciences.”

Aomawa Shields, Ph.D., the Clare Boothe Luce Assistant Professor also in the Department of Physics and Astronomy, was awarded $687,418 for the five year grant on her project titled CAREER: Bridging Theory and Observations of Habitable Worlds and Building a Bridge to Astronomy and Astrobiology for Underrepresented Middle-School Girls.

“I couldn't be more honored to receive this NSF award as it means we will break new ground globally in both science and education,” Shields shared. “We will be able to execute an interdisciplinary, multi-tiered research program bridging theory and observations of potentially habitable planets, and involve students and postdoctoral scholars in our efforts to target planets with the best prospects for hosting life in our corner of the Galaxy.”

Shields, who also received support from NSF during her graduate and postdoctoral education, shared excitement for her educational program Rising Stargirls which supports educational programs for underrepresented middle school-aged girls interested in exploring the fields of astronomy and astrobiology.

“Rising Stargirls will be able to grow onto a global platform by conducting free webinars for girls anywhere in the world with an Internet connection, which will allow us to involve girls around the world in our search for the next habitable planet where life exists,” Shields added.

Tom Trogdon, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Mathematics was awarded an $469,565 NSF CAREER Award for his project CAREER: Numerical Linear Algebra, Random Matrix Theory and Applications.

Trogdon, who works in the areas of Applied and Computational Mathematics, Mathematical Physics, and Probability, has focused his research on advancing the understanding of poorly understood aspects of numerical algorithms by employing techniques from the ever-expanding field of random matrix theory.

“I'm honored to have been selected to receive an NSF CAREER grant,” said Trogdon. “This grant will expand my existing teaching and outreach program, reaching high school, undergraduate and graduate students by incorporating ideas from computational science, programing, probability and statistics.  The support will directly advance research aims to help understand fundamental aspects of widely used algorithms.”

Congratulations to our outstanding faculty who have been recognized by NSF for their contributions to areas of physical science and education.

The NSF Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) awards are among the NSF’s most prestigious awards and support early career faculty who have the potential to serve as academic role models in research and education and to lead advances in the mission of their department or organization. Begun in 1995, the program provides promising junior faculty the opportunity to pursue outstanding research, excellence in teaching, and the integration of education and research.