CU-Boulder Professor Margaret Murnane Wins $3 Million Fellowship from Department of Defense

Published: Jan. 26, 2009

University of Colorado at Boulder physics Distinguished Professor Margaret Murnane has been named a National Security Science and Engineering Faculty Fellow by the U.S. Department of Defense.

Murnane was one of eight fellows selected in the inaugural round of the program, which provides up to $3 million in total direct research support for up to five years. "Every NSSEFF award provides DOD with top-tier researchers from U.S. universities, each conducting long-term, unclassified basic research on challenging technical problems of strategic national security importance," said William Reese Jr., DOD deputy undersecretary of defense for laboratories and basic sciences.

The selection process included over 500 nomination letters from 150 institutions. More than 350 technical papers were received and 20 semifinalists were invited to submit full proposals of their research plans and participate in a scientific interview before a panel.

The fellows will conduct basic research in core science and engineering disciplines. The research is important to the future of DOD technology development and includes sensors and information security, according to the defense agency.

Murnane's research group will develop high-power ultrafast lasers in the mid-infrared region of the spectrum. Using extreme nonlinear optics, the laser beams can then be converted into the "hard" X-ray region of the spectrum to produce coherent, laser-like X-ray beams in a compact setup. Coherent X-ray beams can be used for many applications in nanoscience and nanotechnology, such as the development of next-generation microscopes that do not need lenses.

Murnane also is a fellow at JILA, a joint institute of CU-Boulder and the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and a member of CU's physics department and the electrical and computer engineering department. She runs a joint research group with her husband, physics Professor Henry Kapteyn. Murnane is also a fellow of the American Physical Society and the Optical Society of America.

In 1997 Murnane was awarded the Maria Goeppert-Mayer Award of the American Physical Society and in 2000 she received a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Fellowship, popularly known as the "genius grant." In 2004, Murnane was elected to the National Academy of Sciences, and was elected a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2006.