By Michael Moore
Florida A&M University physics professor Mogus D. Mochena has been awarded a $350,000 National Science Foundation (NSF) grant to study extremely tiny semiconductor structures known as nanostructures, which are expected to function as components of spintronics, the next generation of electronics.
Common semiconductors such as silicon are not magnetic. They can be made magnetic by introducing dilute amounts of magnetic atoms such as iron, Mochena explained.
In addition to the magnetic atoms, non-magnetic atoms that increase the number of electrons in the semiconductor will be introduced or doped. This will add another property to the tiny structures known as plasmonics due to the collective motion of the electrons, Mochena said.
“As a result, a multi-functional nanostructure is expected that that will have various applications – spintronics, photonics, sensing and detecting cancer agents and many more,” he added.
Mochena’s grant proposal was titled “EIR: First Principles Defect Engineering of Plasmonic Diluted Magnetic Semiconducting Oxide Nanocrystals.”
The funding will also support a doctoral student and four undergraduate students majoring in applied physics with a focus on computational science.
Mochena encourages students seeking careers in advanced technology industry to major in applied physics, and also to join the exciting research in advanced technology at FAMU Physics Department.
“We need students with physics backgrounds to work on challenging but very interesting problems,” Mochena said. “For instance, physicists work on complex problems involving biology. The current COVID-19 pandemic requires thorough understanding of its protein structure to develop a vaccine against it,” Mochena said. “That requires a fundamental knowledge of physics, biology, and computational science.”
The objective of the applied physics major is to ensure students graduate with the fundamental understanding of applied physics and advanced technology skills.
Students will graduate with the ability to work in high-tech industries or attend graduate school for an advanced degree.
Dean of the College of Science and Technology Richard Alo said the NSF grant will create great opportunities for students.
“Dr. Mochena’s grant provides wonderful opportunities to satisfy young people’s curiosity through the study of Physics,” said Alo. “We expect additional dimensions to our outstanding physics program.”
The research requires a lot of computational time and will take place at the Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC) at the University of Texas, Austin.
Mochena also has a computing grant to conduct his research on Stampede2 at TACC, which is the fifth fastest computer in the world. TACC is funded by the NSF and is one of highest performance computing centers in the nation, known as the Extreme Science and Engineering Discovery Environment established by the NSF.
Mochena has secured more than $2 million in research grants since he joined the FAMU faculty.