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High-Speed Imager Developer Wins NSF Award

BALTIMORE, Feb. 22, 2013 — A Johns Hopkins engineer has won a National Science Foundation award for his work in developing a high-speed imaging system designed to continuously record images at a rate of more than 100 million frames per second — 100 times more rapidly than current technology allows.

Mark Foster, an assistant professor in the department of electrical and computer engineering at Johns Hopkins’ Whiting School of Engineering, was awarded the five-year, $400,000 NSF Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Award for his system, which could eventually be used for cell screening for disease prediction, or to observe a scientific phenomenon that occurs at a very fast rate.

“Certain phenomenon such as some chemical reactions and physical interactions occur at a very fast timescale, and if you want to understand them, you need to be able to observe what is happening within that short window of time,” Foster said.

Foster, who came to Johns Hopkins in 2010, works in the area of nonlinear optics and ultrafast lasers — measuring phenomena that occur in femtoseconds.

“With this project, we hope to create the fastest video device ever created,” he said.

Foster’s work also holds promise for making sense of big data, said Jin Kang, chairman of the department of electrical and computer engineering. Today, researchers can produce and store vast amounts of data. What’s missing, he said, is the ability to process this data instantaneously.

“The question is: How do we effectively and efficiently process these signals?” Kang said. “Mark is developing the science that will process data in femtosecond time. It will allow people to process data in real time, ultrafast instantaneously.”


At Johns Hopkins University’s Ultrafast and Nonlinear Optics Laboratory, Mark Foster uses infrared light in his development of a high-speed imaging system that will enable researchers to continuously record images at more than 100 million frames per second. Courtesy of Bryan Bosworth/Johns Hopkins University.

The applications, Kang said, are endless. For example, the military could use the high-speed processing system to analyze radar in real time, or hospitals could use it to analyze real-time data about patients.

NSF’s CAREER award recognizes junior faculty members who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through outstanding research, excellent education, and the integration of education and research in their organizations.

Foster was recognized in spring 2012 by the Office of Naval Research’s Young Investigator Program, which funds early-career academic researchers whose scientific pursuits show promise for supporting the Navy and Marine Corps while also promoting the scholars’ professional development. In 2011, he received the DARPA Young Faculty Award.

For more information, visit: www.jhu.edu


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