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WPI's Lok C. Lew Yan Voon Receives National Science Foundation CAREER Award

Contact: Arlie Corday, WPI Media & Community Relations

WORCESTER, Mass. - Lok C. Lew Yan Voon of Holden, Mass., an assistant professor in Worcester Polytechnic Institute's Department of Physics, has received a prestigious National Science Foundation (NSF) CAREER Award in support of a proposed project.

The project is titled "CAREER: Topics in Electronic and Optical Properties of Semiconductor Nanostructures." The award, which comes with initial funding of $115,000, is part of the NSF's Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program, which encourages the growth of young faculty members as both educators and researchers. The grant has been approved for a total amount of $225,000 over four years.

Lew Yan Voon's research involves the development of a new mathematical framework for understanding and modeling the behavior of electrons in semiconductor nanostructures. Nanostructures are crystals with properties varying on a submicron scale. Such nanostructures were first synthesized in the late 1970s and have found a number of applications including, for example, the lasers found in CD players.

"The main goal of this proposed research is to discover fundamentally new optoelectronic properties of the nanostructures by developing a mathematically more exact theory. Such basic research could lead to the development of novel photonic devices," said Lew Yan Voon.

Lew Yan Voon has already made contributions to this field of research known as "band structure theory." In support of the project-based curriculum at WPI and the educational component of the CAREER award, he is also involving undergraduates in this theoretical exploration of the quantum nature of materials as an extension of their classroom learning. His work has received further support from the Materials Research Society under the Undergraduate Materials Research Initiative.

An assistant professor at WPI since 1997, he has been a research associate at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio under the 1998 Air Force Summer Faculty Research Program. He served as a visiting professor from 1995-97 at WPI and was an Alexander von Humboldt Research Fellow at the Max Planck Institut in Stuttgart, Germany, from 1994-95.

He earned a 1993 Ph.D. degree from WPI, completing a thesis titled "Electronic and Optical Properties of Semiconductors: A Study Based on the Empirical Tight Binding Model." He received a 1989 M.Sc. from the University of British Columbia and 1987 B.A. and 1991 M.A. degrees from the University of Cambridge in England.

In addition to the NSF award, he has received numerous honors including a President's Teaching Development Award and a Provost's MQP Award for advising, both in 1999, from WPI. He earned an AFOSR Summer Faculty Research Award in 1998, an Alexander von Humboldt Research Fellowship for 1994-95 and a Sigma Xi Doctoral Research Award in 1993. He was elected a Fellow of Cambridge Commonwealth Society in 1990 and received a University of British Columbia Graduate Fellowship for 1988-89.

WPI, founded in 1865, is renowned for its project-based curriculum. Under the WPI Plan, classroom studies are integrated with research projects conducted on campus and around the world.