Physics professor receives $350,000 grant

FAMU physics professor Mochena. Photo courtesy

Mogus D. Mochena, a physics professor at Florida A&M University, recently was awarded a $350,000 National Science Foundation grant.

The award is based on his project, “EIR: First Principles Defect Engineering of Plasmonic Diluted Magnetic Semiconducting Oxide Nanocrystals.”

Mochena’s research focuses on semiconductor nanostructures. The electronics industry is built on semiconductors and uses the charge of the electron to process information. The property of another electron is known as “spin.”

With this, the electron spins around its axis as the Earth does around its axis. The spinning of the electron is what ultimately determines the magnetic properties of materials and has not been used in electronics. The spin can point in an up or down direction  and this binary property could be used to spawn the next generation of electronics — known as “spintronics.”

Mochenahas also received acomputing grant to fund and further support and his research on Stampede2 at TACC.

“Spin-based technology is in its infancy, but will have a transformative impact on society as it fully develops,” Mochena said. He said he is overwhelmed with joy. He said he plans to  allocate the grant in ways that will benefit students at FAMU.

“It will support four undergraduate students majoring in applied physics with a focus on computational science for three years,” Mochena said.

“Google claimed in 2019 that it developed an experimental quantum computer that can do calculations in 200 seconds that could take 10,000 years by the fastest current computer in the world,”  Mochena added.

The intended goal of the physics department at FAMU is to make sure that students have a full understanding of how to apply physics and advanced computational skills. Students who are successful will be able to work in high tech industries or go to graduate school for advanced degrees.

“We need students with a physics background to work on challenging but very interesting problems. For instance, physicists work on complex problems involving biology. The current COVID-19 virus requires thorough understanding of its protein structure to develop a vaccine against it. And that requires a fundamental knowledge of physics, biology and computational science,”Mochenasaid.

Dr. Mochena’s grant provides wonderful opportunities to satisfy young people’s curiosity through the study of physics,” Richard Alo, dean of the College of Science and Technology, said in a release. “We expect additional dimensions to our outstanding physics program.”

Mochena said he hopes to be able to elevateFAMU students’ education and knowledge with the funds he has been awarded.