Growing up in rural Ethiopia, in a village with no running water or electricity, University of New Mexico Assistant Professor Terefe Habteyes says he was always fascinated by light. Now, as a faculty member in UNM’s Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology, his research into the interaction between light and material has earned him one of the most celebrated science awards for junior faculty in the nation.
Habteyes is the recipient of the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) award. The accolade is considered to be one of the most competitive and prominent programs in the country and is designed to help early-career faculty get strong starts in their academic careers.
“I was very excited to hear that we were receiving this award,” said Habteyes, who conducts his research at UNM’s Center for High Technology Materials. “This is an extremely important award for me and my research group. Without this support, our work wouldn’t be able to progress and we wouldn’t have the resources to develop these new techniques.”
Habteyes’ proposal, “Near-Field Imaging for Nanoscale Visualization of Exciton-Plasmon Energy Transfer” was awarded $600,000 over five years. The money will help him and his team of graduate and undergraduate researchers continue to develop a new microscopy technique with the potential to revolutionize basic understanding of nanoscale interaction that is relevant for a variety of applications including solar cells, sensing, catalysis, spectroscopy and microscopic imaging.
The CAREER award will also allow Habteyes to reach out into the community and work with local high school students and teachers.