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K-State Today

January 5, 2012



Physicist named as one of the top scientists in Kansas

By Communications and Marketing

Kristan Corwin, an associate professor of physics.

When it comes to research in physics, Kristan Corwin's work is some of the most illuminating.

Corwin, an associate professor of physics at Kansas State University, studies and builds lasers. She was named one of the top 150 scientists to operate in Kansas within the past 150 years by the Ad Astra Kansas Initiative.

Recently Corwin helped develop the first mid-infrared laser in hollow optical fiber. It uses near-infrared light -- invisible to the human eye -- to pump a gas of atoms, which then emit a mid-infrared beam. This is all done inside hollow glass fibers the size of a human hair. The laser could be used by the military for distance measurement, or for medical purposes -- like mapping the specific molecules in someone's breath to diagnose an illness.

Additionally, Corwin's work with lasers could also improve the speed of phones, Internet and other communications technologies.

Much telephone and Internet traffic exists as pulses of light over optical fibers. By combining many colors into a single optical fiber, information can be sent faster, but this requires optical frequency standards so the proper colors are routed in the proper way. Corwin is studying the use of gas-filled optical fibers as frequency standards for this and other applications.

Throughout 2011, Ad Astra spotlighted Kansas researchers, inventors and engineers from the past to the present who have advanced their field. The initiative's project, "Science in Kansas: 150 Years and Counting," celebrated the state's sesquicentennial, and emphasized the importance of science and the career possibilities in research and innovation to K-12 students.

Corwin is one of 21 active faculty members at K-State to be named a top scientist in Kansas. She joins other historically noted Kansas researchers on the list like George Washington Carver, Charles H. Sternberg, Clyde Cessna and Clyde Tombaugh.