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Howard Physics Professor Receives $450K Grant to Launch Program to Study Beyond 5G

Thomas Searles

WASHINGTON – The Office of Naval Research (ONR) on the behalf of The Department of the Navy’s (DoN) Historically Black Colleges Universities and Minority Institutions (HBCU/MI) Program, has awarded Howard University Associate Professor of Physics Thomas A. Searles, Ph.D., a three-year grant totaling $450,000 to implement his research, “Optical Control of Polarization Conversion, Orbital Angular Momenta and High Harmonic Generation in Terahertz Metamaterials.” This is Searles’ first award from the DoN HBCU/MI Program as a Howard University faculty member.

“Without a doubt, this is a major achievement by Dr. Searles and his research team. Howard University holds a solid reputation as a leader in the preparation and graduation of students in the STEM fields,” said Howard University’s Vice President of Research, Bruce Jones, Ph.D. “This award will not only continue to advance this reputation but will also deepen Howard’s leadership role as a national leader in Quantum science. In this respect, we look forward to a longstanding institutional relationship with the DoN HBCU/MI Program and the Office of Naval Research.”

For Searles, this will allow him to continue to develop an internationally recognized research and education program in applied and materials physics at Howard University.

“The work primarily focuses on terahertz metamaterials for better control of light interacting with matter; a field that I have published in since arriving at Howard in 2015,” said Searles. “The unique aspect of this supported work with respect to research is that we are pursuing technologies that are not only relevant to the mission of the Navy, but will also have overarching applications in improving telecommunications for better data transfer speeds and higher security.  These technologies will allow us to move towards quantum communications and even classical communications beyond 5G.”

At Howard University, Searles and his departmental colleagues are spearheading courses in quantum information, optics and photonics, increasing the opportunities for current and incoming students to be competitive in the future as HBCU graduates, not only at Howard, but other institutions.

“We will also lead a new workshop in collaboration with the Optical Society of America and the National Society of Black Physicists focused on giving opportunities to all HBCUs that work in optics and photonics,” said Searles.

Howard undergraduate and graduate students will be supported to perform research in several facilities including: Searles’ laboratory, the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Gaithersburg, Maryland, the Naval Research Laboratory and the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Dahlgren, Virginia. There is also a partnership to have summer research students supported by this grant from partner HBCU institutions, Morehouse College and Morgan State University.

Searles’s goal is to ensure that Howard continues to be a leader in research for HBCUs and to provide more research and education programs like this one for people of color to be leaders in the $1.2 billion-dollar National Quantum Initiative.

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About Department of Physics &Astronomy

The mission of the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Howard University is to strive for a recognized level of national and international excellence in research and teaching in physics and to assure that students of African American descent and other underrepresented groups are given the opportunity to achieve their fullest potential in physics.

The department currently has a full-time faculty of 20 members, majority of whom are African Americans. In the mid 1990's undergraduate enrollment averaged 20 students per year and graduate enrollment averaged about 30. Over the years, the programs have produced more than 80 PhD. graduates in physics and over 175 masters students. Approximately 70 percent of the doctorate and 75 percent of the masters graduates were students with backgrounds that have been traditionally under-represented in the field of physics. To learn more, visit: physics.howard.edu/

About Howard University

Founded in 1867, Howard University is a private, research university that is comprised of 13 schools and colleges. Students pursue studies in more than 120 areas leading to undergraduate, graduate and professional degrees. The University operates with a commitment to Excellence in Truth and Service and has produced one Schwarzman Scholar, three Marshall Scholars, four Rhodes Scholars, 11 Truman Scholars, 25 Pickering Fellows and more than 165 Fulbright Scholars. Howard also produces more on-campus African-American Ph.D. recipients than any other university in the United States. For more information on Howard University, visit www.howard.edu

Media Contact: Imani Pope-Johns, Imani.popejohns@howard.edu