Sharon M. Weiss, PhD, assistant professor of electrical engineering and physics at Vanderbilt University, will receive $400,000 over five years under a National Science Foundation (NSF) Faculty Early Career Development Award. The CAREER Award will support Weiss' efforts to achieve faster and more accurate detection of biological and Sharon M. Weiss in the lab. chemical materials by using portable porous-silicon waveguides. Weiss is investigating methods to achieve more sensitive detection of biomolecules in less time by using a sensor made from porous silicon, a material with billions of tiny nanometer-sized holes (1000 times smaller than the thickness of a human hair). “Accurate and reliable detection of biological and chemical materials is essential for improved medical diagnostics, environmental monitoring, and homeland security,” she said. “The extremely large surface area of porous silicon allows it to capture large numbers of biomolecules. By evaluating how light interacts with the silicon, we can detect the presence of trace amounts of biological material. Porous silicon sensors, made in our photonic crystals laboratory, have been used to identify specific DNA sequences and we will design them to detect various toxins and viruses in the near future.” Weiss, who holds one patent and has two pending, joined the Vanderbilt faculty in 2005. She received her BS, MS and PhD in optics from the Institute of Optics at the University of Rochester.