The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded a University of Texas at Arlington electrical engineer with a five-year, $500,000 grant to develop an optofluidic laser for better disease detection. Assistant professor Yuze “Alice” Sun will use her Career Award to create a new-generation laser that will lead to a versatile biosensing platform featuring high detection sensitivity, selectivity and throughput. Assistant professor Yuze “Alice” Sun of the University of Texas at Arlington was awarded a National Science Foudnation grant to develop an optofluidic laser. Courtesy of UT Arlington. "Optofluidic lasers are unique because the microlaser can be achieved through smart self-assembly at the liquid-liquid interface," Sun said. "Because of this unique structure, the optofluidic laser is biocompatible and bioconfigurable. It could eventually be applied to in-vivo biosensing, although this is beyond the scope of the current project." In optofluidic lasers, two-phase liquids are controlled using microfluidics and nanofluidics to form a highly efficient optical microcavity. The all-liquid nature makes the laser adaptive and achieves high-precision tuning in an unprecedented manner. Sun will explore the use of the laser to detect biomarkers for cancer diagnosis and other genetic disorders at the molecular and cellular level. "This could someday lead to the creation of a point-of-care platform for clinicians to use in an office, rather than having to send samples away for analysis," Sun said. Sun is one of two UTA Career Award winners to be announced so far this year: Yi Hong, an assistant bioengineering professor, won her Career Award for a project titled, "Dopant-free conductive bioelastomer development." Sun is a member of the Optical Society of America and chair of IEEE Photonics Society’s Fort Worth Chapter. She was a visiting research fellow at the National Institutes of Health after earning her doctoral degree at the University of Michigan Ann Arbor in 2011.