UMD Team Receives Keck Foundation Grant to Design and Build New Photonic Spectrometer

UMD Team Receives Keck Foundation Grant to Design and Build New Photonic Spectrometer

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COLLEGE PARK, MD.  The University of Maryland, College Park has received a $1M grant from the W.M. Keck Foundation to support new advances in astronomical instrumentation for ground and space telescopes. The only project of this type in the U.S., the “Keck Photonic Spectrometer” is the world’s first fully integrated photonic spectrograph.

“We are honored to be a recipient of such a prestigious award and delighted to be partnering with the W.M. Keck Foundation on this important project,” notes Dr. Patrick O’Shea, Vice President and Chief Research Officer for the University. “This project reflects the University’s commitment to innovation and this award will make it possible for us to explore a wide range of applications beyond astronomy, such as medicine, geology, human science, petrochemical products, and space geoscience.”

The project is a multi-faceted collaboration that involves the University’s College of Computer, Mathematics, and Natural Sciences and the A. James Clark School of Engineering, Maryland NanoCenter, the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center and the Joint Space Science Institute, and the University of Sydney Institute of Photonics and Optics. The interdisciplinary team of seven renowned experts in science and engineering includes: Dr. Sylvain Veilleux, Project Leader; Dr. Mario Dagenais, Project Co-leader; Dr. Stuart Vogel; Dr. Andy Harris; Dr. Joss Bland-Hawthorn; Dr. Neil Gehrels; and Dr. John Mather, 2006 Nobel Laureate in Physics. The team has worked together for 20 years and has received worldwide acclaim for achievements in astronomical instrumentation and astrophotonics.

The project will build on the team’s recent breakthroughs in photonics to reverse the size and cost spiral that would otherwise limit capabilities of giant next-generation ultraviolet, optical, and infrared telescopes. The team plans to build a breadbox-sized near-infrared spectrometer which will improve sensitivity by a factor of five beyond the current state of the art. By attaching the instrument to existing telescopes, they will identify the most ancient explosive objects and use them as beacons to probe conditions in the early stages of galaxy and supermassive black hole formation.

About the W. M. Keck Foundation

Based in Los Angeles, the W. M. Keck Foundation was established in 1954 by the late W. M. Keck, founder of the Superior Oil Company. The Foundation’s grant-making is focused primarily on pioneering efforts in the areas of medical research, science and engineering and undergraduate education.  The Foundation also maintains a Southern California Grant Program that provides support for the Los Angeles community, with a special emphasis on children and youth.  For more information, please visit www.wmkeck.org.    

About the University of Maryland

The University of Maryland, College Park is a premier research university, highly regarded in the areas of science and technology, and is aggressively engaged in innovative, multidisciplinary research efforts that tackle some of the biggest challenges of our time. For more information, please visit www.umd.edu.

July 19, 2013


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