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Physics Prof Receives NSF Career Award

Daniel Wasserman to Get $400,000 Grant

Asst. Prof. Daniel Wasserman is associate director of UMass Lowell’s Photonics Center.

By Edwin L. Aguirre

Physics Asst. Prof. Daniel Wasserman has been recognized by the National Science Foundation (NSF) with a prestigious faculty early career development award.

Called the “CAREER” award, this highly competitive annual program selects the nation’s best young university faculty-scholars “who most effectively integrate research and education within the context of the mission of their organization.”

Wasserman joined UMass Lowell in 2007. His scholarly interests include mid-infrared (IR) photonics and plasmonics, semiconductor growth and physics, optoelectronics, nanoscience and terahertz technologies. He will use the NSF award, worth $400,000 spread over a period of five years, to support his research project entitled “Mid-Infrared Quantum Dot Cascade Lasers.”

“My CAREER research is focused on the development of lasers that use quantum dots, which are semiconductor nanostructures, to emit light in the mid-infrared wavelength range,” he says.

This light, which is invisible to the human eye, has a wavelength of 2 to 30 microns (millionths of a meter).

“The mid-infrared is generally associated with thermal radiation, or heat. So every living thing ߞ; and mechanical object ߞ; emits, and absorbs, this light,” says Wasserman.

He says mid-IR quantum dot lasers could be used for sensing and homeland security applications.

“Imagine using them as a compact, low-power on-chip spectrometer for real-time biomedical diagnostics and monitoring,” he says. “For example, you could use the laser as a component in a device to measure the ammonia content in the breath of patients undergoing dialysis to monitor their kidney function. You could also use it as a lab-on-a-chip system for providing parallel spectral and compositional analysis of chemical or biological materials at high speeds and low power consumption.”

Wasserman earned his bachelor’s degree from Brown University and his master’s and doctorate degrees from Princeton University. For his work on “active surface plasmons,” in 2009 he was awarded a three-year $225,000 grant by the NSF and a three-year $360,000 grant by the Air Force’s Young Investigator Research Program.

More information about his research can be found at

Wasserman and Ph.D. student Troy Ribaudo set up a transmission-spectroscopy experiment at the Photonics Center.