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Dr. Brandon Kemp receives NSF CAREER Award


JONESBORO — Dr. Brandon Kemp, assistant professor of electrical engineering at Arkansas State University, has received the National Science Foundation (NSF) CAREER Award, a $400,000 faculty development grant.  It is the NSF’s most prestigious individual award in support of junior faculty who integrate excellence in research and education.

Dr. Kemp's project, "Interpretation of Electrodynamics for Modern Applications," deals with fundamental interactions between light and materials. It is the first NSF CAREER awarded to a faculty member at ASU and is significant as the university works to become a research-intensive institution.

“It has been known for about 150 years that light has both energy and momentum, i.e. the ability to do work,” said Dr. Kemp, who earned his Ph.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 2007.  “For example, it is this radiation pressure that is responsible for a comet’s tail.  These optical forces are very small and go unnoticed in our everyday lives.  However, optical forces can be significant when dealing with objects of about one millionth of a meter or smaller.  Unfortunately, these optical forces are not well understood or modeled.” 

“The Abraham-Minkowski controversy, named for the two leading theories for optical momenta, has been debated for more than a century. Very recently, the most significant part of the dilemma was resolved.”

Dr. Kemp recently authored a paper, “Resolution of the Abraham-Minkowski debate: implications for the electromagnetic wave theory of light in matter,” which was featured in the June 1, 2011, issue of the Journal of Applied Physics and reviews the resolution along with the remaining issues that still need to be resolved.  It shows that understanding optical momentum explains a number of emerging technologies such as optical binding of matter, cloaking, tractor beams, and optical stretching of biological cells.

His project has three main objectives. First, there is a basic research component to develop a comprehensive theory of optical dynamics so that engineers and scientist will be able to confidently model optical forces in a wide range of applications.  Then, a number of proposed and potentially disruptive technologies will be explored.  Thirdly, electromagnetism, the study of electricity, magnetism, and light, will be developed into a new course and book with a more mechanical approach.  If successful, Kemp’s work should impact how light is used as a tool in medicine and science, could further advances in new materials held together with light itself, and may fundamentally change how engineering students learn electromagnetism.

Dr. Kemp said all of this work is being integrated into the new Master of Science in Engineering program and the Center for Efficient and Sustainable Use of Resources (CESUR) within the College of Engineering at ASU.

Prior to receiving a Ph.D., Dr. Kemp earned his Bachelor of Science in Engineering in 1997 from ASU, then a Master of Science in Electrical Engineering from Missouri-Rolla in 1998. With several years of professional research and development experience, Dr. Kemp has published more than 40 engineering and scientific scholarly articles and is an inventor on 5 issued or pending U.S. Patents.

Dr. Kemp is a native of Jonesboro, AR, where he presently resides with his wife, Nikki, and children. 

The Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program is a foundation-wide activity that offers the National Science Foundation's most prestigious awards in support of junior faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through outstanding research, excellent education and the integration of education and research within the context of the mission of their organizations. Such activities should build a firm foundation for a lifetime of leadership in integrating education and research.

NSF encourages submission of CAREER proposals from junior faculty members at all CAREER-eligible organizations and especially encourages women, members of underrepresented minority groups, and persons with disabilities to apply.

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