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The University of Alabama

Two UA Professors Win NSF CAREER Awards

Dr. Margaret Kim

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — The National Science Foundation selected two University of Alabama professors for CAREER Awards totaling more than $890,000 for research projects related to improving future electronics and for investigating terahertz technology, respectively.

These awards, presented to Dr. Seongsin Margaret Kim, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering, and Dr. Tim Mewes, assistant professor in the department of physics and astronomy, are NSF’s most prestigious recognition of top-performing young scientists who are beginning their careers.

Kim has been awarded a five-year, $400,000 grant to advance her research program based on terahertz technology, one of today’s most challenging and exciting areas of research originating from a portion of the electromagnetic spectrum.

Kim’s research will investigate the interaction between light (electromagnetic waves) and matter to attain combined spectroscopic sensing and near field imaging capabilities by utilizing terahertz waves.

Applications for this type of research include biomedical imaging, bio/chemical sensing, instrumentation for pharmaceutical and semiconductor industries, homeland security, astronomy, secure communication and defense science.

“Throughout history, the invention of new types of microscopes has often led to many scientific breakthroughs,” said Kim. “Terahertz micro-nanoscopy is a new form of microscopy, which can probe something in a way that is currently not possible.

“This concept originally stemmed from the desire to understand and probe tumor cells and their microenvironments. However, I envision that terahertz micro-nanoscopy will be used in many broader areas, such as molecular dynamics, nanoscience and engineering, as well as biosensing and imaging.”

Kim, who joined the Capstone in 2007, is also affiliated with UA’s Center for Materials for Information Technology, or MINT. Her current research projects include early detection of breast cancer, new generation photovoltaics and high frequency semiconductor materials and devices.

Dr. Tim Mewes

Mewes’ five-year, $490,000 award will support his research regarding the properties of magnetic materials, which will be used in future high performance electronic devices, including new and more efficient computer memories and logic devices, such as adders – components which add numbers and are found within computers’ central processing units.

The award will allow Mewes, who also works within UA’s MINT Center, to research key properties of materials to be used in so called “spintronic” devices.

In spin-based electronics, or spintronics, the spin of electrons, rather than their charge, is utilized to achieve new and improved functionalities. Spintronics has already led to increased storage density for hard drives, but it could also lead to improved computer memories that are fast, dense and non-volatile.

Spintronics could also bring about logic chips with drastically reduced power consumption.

Mewes will seek a better understanding of magnetization dynamics and its damping in magnetic nanostructures, one of the major challenges to improving spintronic devices.

In the educational component of Mewes’ project, he will provide research opportunities for local high school students, undergraduate and graduate students. He will also continue the development of online materials which can be accessed by the general public through

UA’s MINT Center is an interdisciplinary research center focusing on developing new materials to advance data storage.

In 1837, The University of Alabama became one of the first five universities in the nation to offer engineering classes. Today, UA’s fully accredited College of Engineering has more than 2,700 students and more than 100 faculty. In the last eight years, students in the College have been named USA Today All-USA College Academic Team members, Goldwater scholars, Hollings scholars and Portz scholars.

UA’s department of physics and astronomy is part of the College of Arts and Sciences, the University’s largest division and the largest liberal arts college in the state. Students from the College have won numerous national awards including Rhodes Scholarships, Goldwater Scholarships and memberships on the USA Today Academic All American Team.



The University of Alabama, a student-centered research university, is experiencing significant growth in both enrollment and academic quality. This growth, which is positively impacting the campus and the state's economy, is in keeping with UA's vision to be the university of choice for the best and brightest students. UA, the state's flagship university, is an academic community united in its commitment to enhancing the quality of life for all Alabamians.