Two UCF researchers were awarded prestigious 2016 Ralph E. Powe Junior Faculty Enhancement Awards.

The Oak Ridge Associated Universities (ORAU) group awarded Michael Chini, an assistant professor of physics, and Sean Pang, an assistant professor in CREOL (College of Optics and Photonics), seed money for their work in the area of optics.

“Dr. Chini joined the UCF Physics faculty in the Fall of 2015 and has already secured enough external funding to support several graduate students. The ORAU Ralp E. Powe Award is another recognition of his talent and the cutting-edge research he is planning to do in his lab,” said Eduardo Mucciolo, chair of the UCF Physics Department.

Chini is researching the use of ultrashort pulses to measure and control electron motion in solid materials, which could aid in the development of high-speed electronics. These electronics could lead to better remote sensing equipment and the capability to send more encrypted information faster than currently possible.

Before becoming an assistant professor at UCF in 2015, Chini received his Ph.D. in Physics from UCF in 2012 and his B.S. degree in Physics from McGill University in 2007.

These one-year awards, which began June 1, are intended to enrich the research and professional growth of young faculty and result in new funding opportunities, according to the organization.

“This award will help undergraduates and master students get involved with our research at Optical Imaging System Lab (OISL),” said Pang. “It will definitely accelerate the research in our lab. We also have the chance to connect with a couple of research groups in Oak Ridge National Lab, which I am very excited to collaborate with.”

Pang said he and OISL focus on developing computational imaging platforms in both visible and X-ray regimes. They are developing new X-ray imaging modalities that enhance the tissue-specific contrast in 3D tomographic imaging. In the future, they hope to see low dose “color” X-ray images that reveal sub-nanometer structural information that you cannot get from conventional CT images. Pang’s research will have several key applications in medical diagnostics and therapies.

Pang received his Ph.D. in electrical engineering from California Institute of Technology. Before joining UCF, he conducted his postdoctoral research in X-ray imaging at Duke University. He has a master’s degree in Biomedical Engineering from Texas A&M University and a bachelor’s degree in Optical Engineering from Tsinghua University in Beijing.

The Powe Award Committee awarded 35 grants for the 2016-17 academic year. Full-time assistant professors at ORAU member institutions within two years of their initial tenure track appointment at the time of application are eligible to apply. Research areas must fall in one of five disciplines including Engineering and Applied Science, Life Sciences, Mathematics/Computer Sciences, Physical Sciences, and Policy, Management, or Education.