Distinguished Professor Dr. Nancy Haegel was recently awarded a Fulbright scholar award for research and lecturing for her work in near-field scanning optical microscopy. Her work will take her to Hebrew University in Israel, where she will have the opportunity to work with and learn from head of the Department of Applied Physics, Professor Aaron Lewis, a world-renowned expert and pioneer in near-field imaging techniques.
“It is a great honor to be selected by the Foreign Scholarship Board for a Fulbright award to Israel,” said Haegel. “I am very excited about the opportunity to participate in cutting-edge research at Hebrew University and also to help build the international relationships and collaborations that are central to the Fulbright Program. To do the best job in teaching and research, we always need to be learning new things and seeing the world from different perspectives. This is a great opportunity to do exactly that.”
For the past several years, Haegel has been researching a new technique called transport imaging that uses near-field scanning optical microscopy, with the goal of better understanding solar cells and lasers. Haegel explained that her research involves taking pictures of incredibly small objects without allowing the light to diffract, resulting in crisper images.
“Normally when you take a picture of something, the sharpness of the picture, what we call the resolution, is limited by the wavelength of the light used to make the picture,” she said. “When people take visible pictures, the wavelength is small enough that you don’t really notice this. They are limited by how good the camera is and various other factors. But there is a fundamental limit there.
“Our research is looking to take pictures of really tiny things,” she continued. “And the diffraction limit, the spreading due to light, can limit the picture you can take. So the idea of near-field imaging is to go in and collect the light so close to the surface that you don’t give it the chance to diffract. You literally collect the light right from the surface of the sample. And when there’s no diffraction, there’s no blurring from that, and you can take much sharper pictures of very small things.”
Haegel will spend four months at Hebrew University, during the 2012-2013 academic year, and will build upon work previously done in her NPS physics lab in near-field imaging. While proud of her accomplishments, Haegel is also quick to note that research frequently takes a team effort, and says she has received tremendous support from the NPS Department of Physics, and her students.
“We owe most of our success in this area to my thesis students, who have been willing to tackle new and very challenging experimental work. In just a few years, we have gone from a new idea to a working technique that has been used to study solar cells, nanowires and a wide range of new materials. That doesn’t happen without dedicated students spending large amounts of time in the laboratory,” Haegel commented.
The Fulbright Scholar Program is administered by the Council for International Exchange of Scholars, and sponsored by the United States Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. The program sends 800 U.S. faculty and professionals abroad each year.