Professor Gabriele Grosso Receives Prestigious NSF CAREER Grant for Photonics Research

Gabriele Grosso (Photo courtesy of Grosso)

Professor Gabriele Grosso (Physics), a member of the Advanced Science Research Center at The Graduate Center’s (CUNY ASRC) Photonics Initiative, was awarded a highly competitive Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF). Considered one of NSF’s most prestigious awards, CAREER grants recognize faculty who can serve as role models in research and education and “lead to advances in the mission of their department or organization.” Grosso plans to use the funding, totaling over $537,000, to research new materials for quantum information technology, and to make this sometimes-intimidating field more accessible to students.

The ever-increasing demand for faster information processing and transfer has led scientists to develop materials that use photons — tiny particles of light — rather than electrons to transmit signals. To this end, Grosso’s overarching goal is to be able to precisely control interactions between light and matter, down to the nanoscale. His lab is working on finding new ways to make networks of light-emitting centers — atom-like systems in solid materials that emit a single photon at a time. 

He also seeks to manipulate the structure of materials that are just one atom thick, thereby “designing circuits directly on the atomic scale,” he explained. With the award, Grosso will be able to study the properties of these materials, which are expected to be both efficient and scalable for new devices. Today, such devices are mostly used by researchers, but they could one day lead to quantum computers that perform at incredibly high speeds.

Grosso says he has always been fascinated by the physics of light, but he is well aware that “the basic concepts that govern quantum technology are obscure to most people,” as he put it.

“This leaves them at risk of being excluded from a society that is more and more shaped around new technologies,” Grosso continued. “Moreover, the job market is increasingly looking for ‘quantum experts.’ As an educator, my goal is to inspire and prepare new generations of quantum scientists and inform the general public.”

Grosso will collaborate with teachers at the High School for Health Professions and Human Services in Manhattan to create an outreach program including hands-on activities, STEM events, and a summer research opportunity at the ASRC.

Back at CUNY, Grosso plans to design and teach a new undergraduate course to teach basic concepts of quantum mechanics and how they apply in everyday devices, and give enrolled students the opportunity to do research in his lab. He also hopes to host online conferences open to all CUNY students on photonics and quantum technology, and organize relevant summer courses for graduate students.

In fact, it is this spirit of inclusiveness that first drew Grosso to The Graduate Center and the CUNY ASRC. He completed his undergraduate degree at the University of Padua in Italy, and his Ph.D. at École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland. Grosso then headed to MIT for a postdoctoral position, and collaborated with researchers at The City College of New York who introduced him to the CUNY ASRC.

“I was impressed by the facilities and the vision of interdisciplinary research,” he said. “Moreover, I appreciate the role of CUNY as a public university that offers high quality, affordable education to disadvantaged communities.”

Submitted on: FEB 5, 2021

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