Whether it’s solving the world’s biggest problems or investigating the potential of novel discoveries, researchers at UCF are on the edge scientific breakthroughs that aim to make an impact. Through the Research in 60 Seconds series, student and faculty researchers condense their complex studies into bite-sized summaries so you can know how and why Knights plan to improve our world.

Name: Peter Delfyett
Positions: University distinguished professor of optics and photonics in the College of Optics and Photonics, electrical and computer engineering, and physics; Pegasus Professor; and trustee chair professor; Townes Laser Institute director

Why are you interested in this research?
We live in a visual world, and our perceptions rely on the existence of light and our ability to detect, or sense, it. With light we can see inside all types of matter, including human cells, and we can watch the atoms and electrons that make up these materials do their characteristic “dance.” By watching how atoms and electrons dance, we can create new forms of matter, and develop technologies that use light to communicate faster with each other, perform complex computations at light speed, and develop medical technologies and applications that will improve the health of the global population.

Who inspires you to conduct your research?
In some sense, my students inspire me to continue to push the boundaries of human knowledge. But instead of “who” inspires me to do research, I think it’s more of “what” inspires me to do research.  In this case, it’s the ability to create something that has never been, that contributes to society in a meaningful way.

How does UCF empower you to do your research?
UCF empowers my research in many ways. First, we have great students, with excellent drive and motivation. Second, we have excellent faculty with whom we can share ideas and collaborate to create new visions of what is possible. Third, the UCF upper administration recognizes the importance of research and the investment on everyone’s part, to achieve greatness, and finally, UCF has outstanding staff that provide the glue to help keep our activities on track.

What major grants and honors have you earned to support your research?
One of my earliest honors was receiving the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE) from the U.S. National Science Foundation and awarded at the White House.  This Award also came with a $500,000 grant to support my research for 5 years. Most recently, I was inducted into the National Academy of Engineering, which is the highest honor that can be bestowed on an engineer.  I’ve been fortunate to receive many other honors, as well, and I would like to acknowledge my students and collaborators that I’ve had over the years, that have contributed to making these honors possible.

Why is this research important?
I believe my research is important because in contributes to society in many meaningful ways, and in ways that can transform society and humanity in ways that benefit everyone.