News: Featured Stories

Dean Andrew Grosovsky, Greg Sun, Matthew Bell, and Walter Buchwald study data generated by this Center for Personalized Cancer Therapy equipment. Image by: Colleen Locke
September 15, 2017

Grant to put UMass Boston engineers at forefront of computing technology


  • Boston
Grant from UMass System’s science and technology initiatives fund to support nanofabrication facility upgrades

For the past 50 years, the computing industry has been guided by the principle known as Moore’s Law, which states the number of transistors that can fit on a microprocessor chip will double every two years. But with devices shrinking and smaller chips overheating, there’s consensus within the scientific community that the future of computing may lie with photons--which allow microprocessors to use light instead of electrical signals--instead of electrons.

Chair and Professor of Engineering Greg Sun has received a $100,000 grant from UMass President Marty Meehan’s office and the Science and Technology Initiatives Fund to upgrade UMass Boston’s nanofabrication facility and position the university as a research leader in this emerging field.

This project provides a rare opportunity for UMass Boston to take a lead in an up-and-coming technology that will change the way future computing is conducted,” Sun said. “The current nanofabrication facility does not lend well to high-yield photonic devices and limits the overall output of scientific research. We intend to purchase a Class 1000 modular clean room facility to house all of the fabrication equipment we have acquired or built over the years." 

Sun’s team, which includes professors Walter Buchwald and Matthew Bell, has been investigating the ways photons can be used instead of electrons to create faster, more powerful computers. They leveraged a $25,000 2016 Science and Technology Initiatives Fund award to secure more than $1 million in funding from Air Force Office of Scientific Research and the National Science Foundation.

“The Engineering Department is only three years young, but we have already developed quite a research strength in nanofabrication and an impressive track record on external grants,” Sun said. “This grant from the UMass president’s office will not only further strengthen our position in these efforts, it will also allow our engineering students to gain hands-on experience as they take lab classes developed in the facility.”   

Since 2004, the Science and Technology Initiatives Fund has awarded 104 grants totaling $12.5 million to faculty across all five UMass campuses. These investments have helped to generate additional funding of $350 million in areas such as nanomanufacturing, medical devices, clinical and translational science, biomanufacturing, data science, robotics, and personalized cancer therapy. Nine projects received a total of $730,000 this year.