October 23, 2012 | 7:29 a.m.
By Suzanne McInroy, Director of Communications
Chad Hoyt, associate professor of physics, has been awarded Bethel University's first National Science Foundation (NSF) research grant. He has been funded $230,349 for his project "Fiber Laser Frequency Combs for the Advanced Laboratory."
The project will develop fiber laser frequency combs (FLCs) to use in Bethel's upper-level undergraduate physics courses and in graduate level teaching lab courses at the University of Arizona, Hoyt explains. “Fiber laser frequency combs are like rulers, but instead of measuring the length dimension like a normal ruler would, frequency combs can precisely measure light wavelengths,” says Hoyt. “Picture a comb for one's hair. The teeth are regularly spaced at a millimeter or so. A frequency comb is like that, except the ‘teeth’ are portions of the light spectrum that are spaced regularly apart at a certain wavelength interval.”
The grant provides funding for student researchers to work with Hoyt ’94 in his lab during the academic year, interim, and summers until fall 2015. Hoyt will collaborate with R. Jason Jones at the University of Arizona, who is also a 1994 Bethel graduate. Two of Hoyt’s students will spend a summer with Jones’ research group building a fiber laser frequency comb, and bring their expertise back to Bethel to build one in an upper-level physics class. While the process may seem complicated, Hoyt anticipates the students will enjoy it. “Experimental work in the lab with students, to me, is the best kind of classroom. Students can learn to be inquisitive and resourceful, and they can catch the excitement of physics,” says Hoyt.
If the project is successful at Bethel and the University of Arizona, the goal will be to explain how to replicate it in other schools and teaching labs. “We will carefully look for new, simpler, cheaper ways to make high performance FLCs such that other undergraduate institutions can adopt this wonderful advanced laboratory,” Hoyt explains.
"Chad has been a trailblazer in applying for federal grants, so we are delighted that he has been awarded the university's first federal research grant,” says Deborah Sullivan-Trainor, associate dean for general education and faculty development.
“The success of this proposal is built on some strong shoulders at Bethel,” adds Hoyt. “Dr. Richard Peterson has built the optics part of the Bethel physics department into a nationally recognized success over the past few decades. Bethel has been supportive of my research with students that has led to this grant.”
Hoyt has received additional private funding for his research, including from Creative Integration & Design, Inc., in Saint Paul, Minn.