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Posted 07.25.05

MU Physics Professor to Receive NSF-CAREER Grant

Ultra-Fast, Semiconductor Optoelectronics Focus of New Research

COLUMBIA, MO -- A University of Missouri-Columbia researcher has won the National Science Foundation's CAREER award to support his work in theoretical physics. Carsten Ullrich, assistant professor of physics, will receive $400,000 over a period of five years to study fundamental electronic processes used in cell phones and computers.

The NSF CAREER award is designed specifically for young investigators; only 300 are awarded nationally across the fields of science and engineering. In the past five years, 21 CAREER awards have been granted to faculty across the entire UM system; nine were on the Columbia campus.

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"The award is very prestigious." said H.R. Chandrasekhar, chair of Department of Physics. "There are only three or four awards given in the Materials Theory Division, the category for which Carsten applied. I am glad that he has joined the elite group of our most successful, untenured faculty."

The award will be used to support Ullrich's work on "time-dependent density-functional theory for ultra-fast excitations in semiconductors." He has proposed to develop this new theory as a promising alternative to existing methods for simulating ultra-fast optical processes. These processes are important for computers and telecommunication technologies for the next generation.

"In semiconductor industry and nanotechnology, the trend is toward smaller and faster; therefore, it is of interest to understand what happens at very short time scales," Ullrich said.

Ullrich will study the behavior of electrons in semiconductors under extremely short bursts of lasers. Ullrich will work in picoseconds, one-billionth of a second and femtoseconds, one-millionth of a billionth of a second.

"I know it seems unreal," Ullrich said. "But these ultra-fast processors are actually something that can be experimentally observed, and their fundamental understanding will have important implications for faster processing in nanotechnology and new device applications in optoelectronics.

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