Optics and photonics is primarily about the science of light, its generation and manipulation, and its interaction with gases, plasmas, molecules, and solids, including micro- and nanostructures. It is a highly interdisciplinary field, bringing together researchers from physics, electrical engineering, chemical and biochemical engineering, and chemistry. Many of the researchers in the area are co-located in the Iowa Advanced Technology Building and are part of Iowa CREATES.
Faculty in this research area make use of lasers to study different materials, including semiconductors and plasmas, and to manipulate charge carriers and spin. Some faculty use ultrafast lasers, featuring pulses as short as ten quadrillionths of a second, to study carrier dynamics and induce optical nonlinear material responses. These pulsed lasers use chirped pulse amplification, recognized in the 2018 Nobel Prize in Physics. Faculty study light generation and absorption in different structured media, including organic and inorganic semiconductors, and how to enhance it with patterned surfaces such as plasmonics, and metamaterials. Research includes such topics as quantum information, optoelectronics, optical chemical sensing, solar energy and photovoltaics.
We offer two optics specialty courses an Introduction to Optics course mixed undergrad/grad), as well as an Advanced Optics course (grad) covering laser principles and nonlinear optics.
There is a wide job market for students trained in this area, with opportunities in industry, government labs, and academia.