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TCNJ Wins NSF Grant to Acquire a Spatial Light Modulator System for STEM Research and Education

TCNJ Wins NSF Grant to Acquire a Spatial Light Modulator System for STEM Research and Education

TCNJ’s Physics Department has been awarded a $245,000 grant from the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Major Research Instrumentation program. The funding will bring a new piece of research equipment called a spatial light modulator system to the College.

A spatial light modulator system is a digital optical projector that provides light fields necessary for advanced research that are not otherwise achievable. Although you may not be familiar with a spatial light modulator, the technology is something we all interact with every day; it makes cellphone screens, digital projectors, and flat screen displays possible.

At TCNJ, this new system will be used to enable research and training in interdisciplinary fields including optical materials, bioscience, and human-computer interaction. It will benefit the research programs of 10 faculty members across five different departments, as well as their more than 60 undergraduate research students. The spatial light modulator will allow researchers in materials science to probe light-responsive materials that act as molecular motors. It will be able to selectively illuminate neurons to study their connectivity. Computer scientists will use the equipment to construct augmented reality systems that allow them to develop visual interfaces between computers and their users.

In addition to its usefulness in research, the spatial light modulator will also be used at TCNJ to improve undergraduate STEM education and training. The system will be used in the education of future high school science teachers and in the development of new undergraduate instructional physics laboratories that reflect current technology. Both TCNJ’s NSF-funded Robert Noyce physics teacher training program and the College’s Integrative STEM Education program will benefit from the new instrumentation.

This project is a collaborative effort supporting faculty members and students spanning four of the School of Science’s academic departments and one department in the School of Engineering. The project is led by Dr. David McGee (Physics), who serves as Principal Investigator on the grant, and Co-PI Dr. Tuan Nguyen (Physics). In addition to Drs. McGee and Nguyen, the grant includes 8 other faculty members: Dr. Heba Abourahma (Chemistry), Dr, Sharif Mohammad Shahnewaz Ferdous (Computer Science), Dr. Nathan Magee (Physics), Dr. Stephen O’Brien (Integrative STEM Education and Electrical Engineering), Dr. Romulo Ochoa (Physics), Dr. Andrea Salgian (Computer Science), Dr. Zaara Sarwar (Biology), and Dr. Sejong Yoon (Computer Science). The new equipment acquired through the grant will support the research of these 10 teacher-scholars and the over 60 undergraduate researchers who work with them each year.

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