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  • Laser Scientist Named MacArthur Fellow
Sep 2005
CHICAGO, Sept. 20 -- Claire Gmachl, a laser engineer and associate professor of electrical engineering at Princeton University, is one of 25 MacArthur Fellows for 2005, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation announced today. Each received a phone call from the foundation this week informing them they will be given $500,000 in "no strings attached" support over the next five years.
Gmachl, 38, is an experimental scientist "working at the intersection of technology and fundamental physics in the fields of optics and semiconductor laser technology," the foundation said in a statement.

"A wizard at imagining and creating new designs for solid-state lasers, Gmachl's pioneering work has led to critical advances in the development of quantum cascade (QC) lasers," it said.

QC lasers are a rapidly evolving class of high-performing, mid-infrared, semiconductor light sources. The lasers designed by Gmachl and her colleagues are noteworthy for their considerable wavelength tunability, high-power operation, high-speed modulation capabilities and seemingly unlimited design potential.

"She has demonstrated the versatility and promise of mid-infrared light sources for a wide range of applications, including trace gas sensing in the environmental, industrial and medical fields, and free-space optics in wireless communications," according to the foundation.

Her recent achievements include the development of QC microlasers and new hybrid devices, which include quantum cascade structures and nonlinear components, dramatically extending the wavelength range of QC technology. These designs have applications in environmental monitoring, clinical diagnoses, spectroscopy and chemical process control.

"With her combination of technological flair and deep understanding of physical concepts, Claire Gmachl translates complex principles into original and practical devices that advance our understanding of optical device designs and promise to address a wide variety of engineering challenges," the foundation said.

Gmachl received an MS (1991) from the University of Innsbruck and a PhD (1995) from the Technical University of Vienna. She has been a member of the technical staff (1992-94) at the Technical University of Munich and an assistant professor (1995-96) at the Technical University of Vienna. The majority of her work on QC lasers was done as a member of the technical staff (1996-2003) at Lucent Technologies-Bell Laboratories.

Recipients of MacArthur fellowships, or "genius grants," are selected for their creativity, originality and potential. Also among this year's Fellows are a sculptor integrating architecture and the optical effects of color and light in her work, a molecular biologist, a pharmacist, a violin maker, a rare book preservationist, a photographer and a fisherman.

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