Texas Tech University

Assistant Professor Receives NSF CAREER Award for Integrated Photonic Subwavelength Grating Research

Allen Ramsey

February 15, 2022

Sangsik Kim

Sangsik Kim is working toward the circuits of the future.

Texas Tech University's Sangsik Kim, an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering in the Edward E. Whitacre Jr. College of Engineering, has received a Faculty Early Career Development Program (CAREER) Award from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to continue his research on increasing photonic chip integration density.

Kim first was awarded a $357,912 grant from the NSF in 2019 to explore all-dielectric metamaterials for high-density photonic chip integration. In 2020, he achieved a breakthrough in chip integration density when he found a new coupling mechanism in photonic anisotropic metamaterials that can completely suppress the coupling between adjacent identical waveguides.

“Compared to the other awards this means a lot because it gives me confidence in my direction,” Kim said. “I feel recognized by peers and really excited!”

The CAREER Program offers the NSF's most prestigious awards in support of early-career faculty who have the potential to serve as academic role models in research and education and to lead advances in their organization's missing. Kim's award brings his total continuing grant to $500,000 with the goal of exploring more diverse research opportunities with subwavelength grating metamaterials (SWG).

“To get a CAREER Award is one of the highest honors a young faculty member can get,” said Al Sacco Jr., dean of the College of Engineering. “We are all very proud of Dr. Kim's research in subwavelength grating metamaterials to make possible the circuits of the future, utilizing light photons instead of electrons. We are proud that the research of our faculty, like Dr. Kim, is leading the way into the technologies of the future.”

SWG's are man-made nanopatterns, smaller than wavelengths, used to control the flow of light and develop advanced integrated nanophotonic circuits.

While Kim has found success with his research, he still faces challenges, such as limited polarization and bandwidth along with practical applications for photonic components.

“This recognition makes me happy and quite motivated because it gives me more confidence in my research direction. I also had other research decisions to choose from, but I chose the one that was the most exciting and promising.”

Persistence paid off for Kim, who was denied the CAREER Award on his first attempt but continued to apply for it and now has seen his work recognized.

“I strongly believe this impact of this research is significant, so that's why I chose to push through this research direction and idea even though it was rejected initially,” he said.