Oregon Center for Optical, Molecular and Quantum Science broadens its focus

OMQ Junior Faculty

The Oregon Center for Optics is now the Oregon Center for Optical, Molecular, and Quantum Science (OMQ). The name change reflects an expanded focus for the University of Oregon research center, which aims to go beyond optical science and technology and include research and education in optics, spectroscopy, quantum science and other tracks, said Jeffrey Cina, a professor in the UO Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, who serves as director of the center.

“The title of optics started to feel a little too brief to really describe all that we are investigating,” Cina said “We’re proud of our long history of contribution to the important area of optics in general, and in particular to quantum optics. But looking at the way research has evolved in this group and in related areas, we came to feel there was a benefit to broadening our focus.”

Historically, optics and spectroscopy — research investigating the fundamental and applied properties and uses of light itself and the spectra produced when matter interacts with or emits electromagnetic radiation — have been focal points for the center. Since its founding in 1997, the OMQ has hosted everyone from experimental physical chemists employing lasers for spectroscopy research to optical physicists studying optical processes in semiconductor nanostructures to theoretical physicists studying quantum information processing. The newly renamed center will accommodate UO researchers examining related areas such as electron optics, scanning tunneling microscopy, nano mechanical systems, and the evolving optical and electronic properties of growing materials. The center will continue to bridge the divides between physical chemistry and optical physics, but it will cross and re-cross the boundaries in new and different ways, Cina said.

“Diversity is good, interdisciplinarity is good, but we also want to have cohesion,” Cina said. “We want to think about the things that bind us together.”

The center will work with the following existing and new(*) members:

  • Benjamin Aleman*
  • Jeff Cina
  • Miriam Deutsch
  • Stephen Gregory
  • Andy Marcus
  • Ben McMorran*
  • Jens Nöckel
  • Mike Raymer
  • Brian Smith*
  • Dan Steck
  • Steven van Enk
  • George Nazin* 
  • Hailin Wang
  • Cathy Wong*

To reflect its expanding focus, OMQ revised its mission statement to include quantum science, as well as “the physical investigation of atomic and molecular processes and quantum science.” Moving forward, center members hope to create even more opportunities for interdisciplinary projects. With a growing emphasis on group and center grants and with the existence of initiatives like the National Photonics Initiative (NPI) — a collaborative project that seeks to drive funding and investment in photonics-driven fields critical to U.S. competitiveness and national security — the center aims to compete for more research dollars. OMQ brought in $1.1 million in sponsored research awards in FY2015.

OMQ continues to focus on students — undergraduate, masters and Ph.D. — who are involved in all aspects of research. The center is growing relationships with private sector companies and its Ph.D. program seeks to facilitate student interaction with industry through internships, workshops and job entry for graduating students.

Additionally, the center remains committed to outreach as a means for increasing the participation of underrepresented groups in the sciences. It serves as the home of the Science Program to Inspire Creativity and Excellence (SPICE), an initiative that aims to recruit an increasing number of women to science fields.

Brad Shelton, the UO’s interim vice president for research and innovation, pointed to the center’s longstanding reputation as a focal point for multifaceted research in basic and applied optics in physics and physical chemistry.

“OMQ’s expanded focus on spectroscopy, atomic and molecular processes and quantum science will foster new kinds of collaboration and cooperation between researchers,” Shelton said. “This broadened vision benefits our faculty as well as our students and creates more opportunities for research and graduate training.”