Choi receives DoD HBCU/MI award to establish UCI Core Optical Laboratory Resource

Advanced instrumentation and new dedicated space to train the next generation of scientists and engineers

Dr. Bernard Choi, Associate Director of UCI Beckman Laser Institute, received a 2022 Department of Defense (DoD) Research and Education Program for Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Minority-Serving Institutions (HBCU/MI) award.  The award supports the establishment of the UCI Core Optical Laboratory Resource (COLR), which will feature a dedicated space and advanced instrumentation, enhancing the Institute’s capabilities to attract and train the next generation of scientists and engineers. Through UCI COLR, students will expand their skills by developing basic and applied optical systems and observing, measuring and interpreting fundamental optical phenomena.

Optical technologies enable minimally- and non-invasive functional imaging, multiscale diagnostics, image-guided therapy and laser surgery. Since its founding in 1986, UCI Beckman Laser Institute and Medical Clinic has served as a premier interdisciplinary research institute for optics and photonics in biology and medicine. Research teams at the Institute develop and apply new optical technologies and methodologies to address biological and biomedical problems.

“Hands-on training in optics and photonics is a significant bottleneck in the education of students and researchers, stated Choi. “The UCI COLR will enable us to provide a robust and broad education in fundamental optical principles.”

New instrumentation in UCI COLR will augment Institute capabilities, as researchers pioneer advanced optical technologies for trauma and critical care.  New lab-based coursework in multiple departments will provide trainees with opportunities to develop optical system design and data acquisition skills. In addition, general optics and photonics courses and specialty courses in imaging approaches will rely heavily on UCI COLR technologies and equipment. Topics of interest include laser fundamentals, imaging system design and understanding health disparities associated with optical measurements.

Institute teams will develop formal and informal summer workshops and boot camps.  UCI COLR will impact approximately 30 students annually through the Institute’s Access to Careers in Engineering and Sciences (ACES) program and other UCI multi-year partnerships with HBCU and local minority service community college programs.  During these visits, UCI COLR will strengthen the hands-on training and engagement of the summer students in optics and photonics.

“I look forward to working with the 15 outstanding UCI faculty who comprise the COLR management team, to enhance the training of our undergraduate and graduate students,” stated Choi.  “The experiential learning opportunities that will result from the UCI COLR will give our trainees a stronger foundation in optics and photonics, and we believe that these experiences will increase the enthusiasm of our students and stimulate their interest in pursuing careers in biophotonics and STEM [science, technology, engineering and math] in general.”