Published: Sept. 14, 2014
Jelena Notaros

Jelena Notaros, a third-year undergraduate student in electrical engineering at the University of Colorado Boulder, has always wanted to apply her enjoyment of mathematics and physics to solve important, real-world problems in technology. When she was invited last spring by Professor Milos Popovic to join his Nanophotonic Systems Laboratory as an undergraduate research assistant, she knew it was the perfect opportunity to fulfill her goal.

"What excites me most about CU-Boulder is that you are given the opportunity to be a part of cutting-edge research," Notaros says. "I love being able to take on a challenging problem knowing my work has the potential to contribute to the future of photonics and technology as a whole."

Popovic's group is aiming to redesign communication links between microprocessors and memory chips using light and silicon photonic devices in place of electrical signals and microelectronic circuits. This introduction of light processing is a paradigm shift that will enable reduced power consumption and increased speeds in microelectronic chips, allowing continued scaling of power according to Moore's Law. The use of light in microelectronics will benefit technology ranging from supercomputers to everyday electronics such as laptops and smartphones.

Notaros is developing a novel type of numerical electromagnetic solver that will allow for advanced design of these photonic devices. Since nanophotonics manipulates light on the sub wavelength scale, simple analysis of these devices is inaccurate, and numerical solvers are critical to the design and invention of novel devices.

"These solvers implement Maxwell's Equations, the laws that govern electromagnetic fields, to describe how a device being explored manipulates optical input signals to guide and optimize the device's design," Notaros said. "Specifically, I'm working on a novel solver that will allow for efficient design of periodic optical devices referred to as 'photonic crystals.'"

Over the past year, Notaros has presented her work at several international conferences and submitted to a top scientific journal. In April, Notaros was awarded first place in the 2014 IEEE Region 5 Student Paper Competition, where she was congratulated on her accomplishments by IEEE International President Roberto de Marca and IEEE USA President Jim Jefferies.

This spring, she was awarded the 2014 Sigma Xi Undergraduate Research Award in recognition of exceptional research accomplishments. Notaros has been invited to give talks on her research at several events, including the IEEE Denver Section Meeting in June 2014 and the College of Engineering's Advisory Council Meeting, and was selected to write a feature story in IEEE HKN's The Bridge magazine.