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K-State Today

September 30, 2015

Ultra-fast lasers 'spark' this undergraduate researcher

By Tess Hobson

Brandin Davis

Kansas State University will observe SPARK Week, Oct. 5-9, to showcase undergraduate research at the university. The week is sponsored by the Office of Undergraduate Research & Creative Inquiry. The following is a look at research by Brandin Davis, a senior in physics from Derby.

As a recipient of a summer 2015 Office of Undergraduate Research & Creative Inquiry Research Grant Award, Davis spent his summer working with a state-of-the-art laser to generate specific pulses of light that were then used across various experiments in the lab.

Davis' research used the pulses of light to vibrate nanoparticles at a specific resonance frequency, which then generated light of a different wavelength than the laser used. Focusing the light from the sample into a spectrometer, he was able to see the different wavelength components that made up the light, which then allowed him to characterize the nanoparticles based on the type of light produced.

Davis said that his research could have important applications in many different fields, including medical imaging.

"The nanoparticles we worked with can be made to attach to certain objects of interest in the body. Once attached, these nanoparticles could be excited by a laser to oscillate, making their ligands give off light, which could then be detected in an imaging device," he said.

According to Davis, this technique is advantageous.

"It would only take getting the nanoparticles to attach to what needs to be imaged and then exposing the site of interest to visible, or potentially even infrared, wavelength radiation to get a very detailed picture of things going on inside plants, animals, and humans," he said.

Davis calls his work "extremely fun and intellectually satisfying."

Davis recognizes that becoming a good researcher takes time and experience. He found it valuable to obtain research experience as early as possible and is sure it will only help him reach his future aspirations. He plans on getting his doctorate in laser physics and becoming a university professor to teach and continue doing cutting-edge research with lasers.

Davis' faculty mentor is Carlos Trallero, assistant professor of physics.

Find out about SPARK Week activities.