Dr. Wesley Sims '09, an assistant professor of physics at Morehouse College, has received nearly $900,000 in grants to expand the work of his Micro/Nano Optics Research & Engineering Laboratory and to introduce students to careers in the field.
His first grant of the academic year was presented by IBM Quantum and the Society for Optics and Photonics (SPIE). The professor received $100,000 to support research and education in quantum optics and photonics. His application was selected over colleagues within IBM-HBCU Quantum Center’s member institutions, which includes 24 Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs).
The IBM Quantum-SPIE grant came on the heels of a federal award that the physicist has also received. Sims is collaborating with UCLA as the principal investigator for a project funded by a three-year, $798,000 grant from the National Science Foundation for research in quantum electrodynamics. The project includes a leadership and trainee plan focusing on increasing access for students who are from populations that are historically underrepresented in STEM.
"I am extremely humbled and excited to receive the awards from the National Science Foundation and IBM-SPIE,” said Sims, a Morehouse College alumnus. “Not only does it grant me the opportunity to increase research capacity at Morehouse College, but the collaborative approach with other institutions will prepare our students for graduate-level rigor and build a quantum-focused network that will provide many opportunities for them.”
The co-principal investigator of the NSF grant is Sergio Carbajo, a UCLA Samueli assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering and director of the Quantum Light-Matter Cooperative (Q-LMC) Carbajo also holds faculty appointments at UCLA’s Department of Physics & Astronomy and with the Linac Coherent Light Source at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, which is managed by Stanford University and is part of the Q-LMC consortium.
The Morehouse-UCLA project is being funded by the NSF’s Office of Multidisciplinary Activities and its Historically Black Colleges. Through this project, the team seeks to verify emerging theories on the quantum nature of how light interacts with matter, from solids to liquids to gases. The findings could also have broader impacts on a range of fields — including molecular physics, optics, and particle physics — and may lead to next-generation sensors for quantum phenomena.
“This NSF grant will allow our group to explore some exciting and novel concepts in quantum sensing, with an uncompromising commitment to include and expand the participation of underrepresented students in physics and engineering,” said Carbajo, who is the faculty director of equity, diversity, and inclusion at UCLA Samueli’s Electrical and Computer Engineering Department.