Category Archives: Research

Adventures as an LLNL Intern: Jilian Nguyen

I am more than halfway through my time as an intern at Lawrence Livermore National Labs (at the time of this writing) in Livermore, California and I can’t quite believe it’s already half over! I’ve been able to meet some truly amazing people, work in a fantastic environment, and go to some awesome places in Northern California. I’m excited to share!

The Lab culture is very laid back, which isn’t something you’d expect of a place with the imposing title of “National Government Laboratory”! Student interns are given the freedom to decide when to come into work and how to best spend that time, as long as you still complete the number of required hours per week and you get your work done. Occasionally your mentor will touch base with you, but otherwise, you are not constantly supervised. There are always talks and workshops happening somewhere on lab campus, so attending those help give you a break from work while still learning something new. The atmosphere of the lab makes this a wonderful place to work!

The Lab hires a diverse set of students from all parts of the country, all majors, and all educational backgrounds. Because of this, I’ve been able to meet people who show me different ways of thinking about and seeing everything around me! I’ve had the pleasure of making good friends here that I would love to keep up with in the future. Being able to go to amazing places with other interns has made my experience that much better, I really don’t think I’d be having as much fun as I am without them!

I’ve gone to San Francisco a few times now, and each time is an adventure (it’s also a workout…those hills sure are something)! The first time, we went to Pier 39 to window shop and have good food, while enjoying the cooler weather by the ocean (Livermore is a bit too far inland to enjoy the benefits of the best heatsink there is).

Getting our picture taken with the rest of SF in the background

We went seal observing, and then walked further into the city to attend a food and culture festival in the North Beach neighborhood, where we found a lovely park (with many dogs!) and some insanely good gelato!

The next time I went to SF, the visit became a mini culinary tour of Chinatown and J-town. We started with eating dim sum in the oldest dim sum restaurant in SF (dating back from the 1920’s!), watched insane volleyball games with over 10 people per side, and then walked to a dog park in front of a beautiful church, where I was able to pet many different dogs including a sheltie, a golden, a pug, and a terrier! Afterwards we trekked to J-Town, where I had black sesame ice

You can’t go wrong with Pocky and rainbow sprinkles on top of a delicious dessert

cream in a tayaki cone (a fish-shaped cake with sweet red bean filling). We went to a Japanese restaurant to have dinner, where we ate some delicious ramen. I’m definitely not done with San Francisco yet, and I can’t wait to see what else this city has in store for me!


I am not what you would call “in shape”, but nonetheless I still ventured to Yosemite and took up the challenge of a 7-mile round trip hike with a couple of interns who helped pace me. The beauty of Yosemite astounded me, and I was in awe (and a little bit of fear) when I witnessed the awesome power of the waterfalls, crashing frigid snowmelt against sharp rocks.

Vernal Falls views from the Mist trail (click to view the full pictures, especially the right one!)

We took the Mist trail, which misted us real well at the end of the first mile with the spray from Vernal Falls soaking the steep steps up past the waterfall. I was bone-tired after the hike, but very proud of myself and my fellow interns who made the hike with me. In the over-the-top words of Matt, one of the interns I was with, we explored the cathedrals of the earth that day, and boy was it beautiful.

It is only because of a very slight slope that the water didn’t wash over the area where people were sunbathing, just feet away!

Our change in elevation was a total of about 3,400 feet from the bottom of the trail up to Nevada falls. This is an insane amount of exercise for a sedentary person such as myself

This past weekend, a group of 11 interns including me decided to take a beach day and drive to Santa Cruz to enjoy the Santa Cruz beach boardwalk! It was a hot day in Livermore and we were very happy that Santa Cruz was about 15 degrees cooler. The water was frigid, but once you stopped screaming and just kept yourself in the water for a few minutes, it was doable.

And it was fun riding the waves back towards the beach. It wasn’t too hot out on the beach and the breezes were wonderful! I also rode the 5th oldest roller coaster in the US here, since the boardwalk has a permanent carnival overlooking the beach. In the evening we found a local burger place that had a large selection of amazing burgers, which tasted SO GOOD.

A picture of the Merced river with Yosemite falls in the background at the end of the day after our hike

Especially after a day of exertion at the beach!


That has been a recap of my adventures so far, and I am so ready for whatever else is in store!

Fun at the beach!



Jilian Nguyen is an undergraduate at the University of Arizona, College of Optical Sciences. She previously worked for Pierre Blanche as an undergraduate fellow, working on holographic solutions for better internet networks. She is an active participant in optics outreach both for CIAN and for the college. For the summer of 2017 she will be an intern at Lawrence Livermore National Labs in Livermore, California. Jilian enjoys video games, Game of Thrones, and long boarding.

Trudy’s RET Experience at UCSD

I am a life science teacher, and recently, our district adopted the new NGSS standards. This research project and lesson fit in well with the standards and with the spirit of the new standards.

In my project, I improved on a technique I saw on youtube to build a cell phone spectrophotometer to view plant pigments. As part of my project, I dug into how a spectrophotometer works, I learned more about photosynthesis, and I learned a lot about light. To design a better cell phone spectrophotometer, I did experiments as outlined below.

Experiments were conducted in Peter Ilinyhk’s lab. A web page[1] and YouTube video[2] were found on how to make a spectrophotometer out of a cell phone very simply. I experimented with the idea to determine how to build one that would give the students the best results. To determine which procedure was best, I used data generated with different types of cell apps and designs for the box to create standard curves using Beer’s law to estimate known concentrations of solutions. Several tests were done as shown below, with the best results achieved using method #3.

  1. 6/29/17 Methods and Trial 1
    1. Reproduce standard curve using the exact procedure as in the video (see footnotes) using green paper and red food coloring. Graphed raw data and absorbance.
    2. Calculations were performed in Excel as follows: G value was collected directly from cell phone using paper or light as close to complementary as possible. Complementary colors have the highest peaks of absorbance. This could not be controlled with the paper experiments, but later, using the online wavelength to color relationship app, the best color can be transmitted directly through the computer screen. Absorbance was calculated by  Ay = -log10(I/Io) where Ay is the absorbance of light with wavelength y and I/Io is the transmittance of the test material[3]. Io is the intensity of the light being passed through a blank (solvent used), and I is the intensity of the light passing through the sample.
      For example, with the red solution, the green value of the blank was used as I0, which would be high for the blank, while the I was the green value of the red test solution, which would transmit less of the green light because it was absorbed by the red liquid.
    3. Using Beer’s law, and known concentrations of the red liquid, a standard curve could be drawn and then used to determine the accuracy of the spectrophotometer.
    4. All data were collected and analyzed in this Excel spreadsheet. You must open this in Excel, does not read file correctly online!
    5. I chose the ColorMeter Free version over about 9 other spec and colorimeter apps. This one is really easy to use. Use one of the RGB meter apps on the cell phone to get readings. Use paper to reflect light closest to complementary color of solution for peak absorbance.
    6. I then cross-checked the results using the Vernier SpectroVis spectrophotometer. I looked for a peak of absorbance and chose that value as the wavelength to focus on. It was in the green spectrum.

Some issues I had with setting up the spectrophotometer: inside of the box needs to be covered in black paper, it works better that way. I simply lined the box with black construction paper.

Green paper with red dye solution gave results pretty similar to the results I got with the store bought spec.

I made the following concentrations of solutions:

  1. 1000 ppm = 2 drops food coloring/100 ml of deionized water
  2. 500 ppm = serial dilutions were made using the stock solution above
  3. 250 ppm
  4. 125 ppm
  5. 62.5 ppm
  6. 333 ppm
  7. 0 ppm using deionized water

Got a huge % error, but it was consistent in both store and home spec. I think I measured the solutions incorrectly.

3.      17. Method 2: Using a Filter and More Testing with Colored Paper

  • Did same experiments 2 drops per 100 ml with the same serial dilutions of 50% each time. Remade the solutions. Unknown is 333 Continue to get huge % error in both store and home. Perhaps another problem with measuring the solutions? I also only did one trial, so could have just been a sample size issue.  There also seems to be a problem with the reflected light using the paper.
  • I placed transparent colored film over the outside of the boxes and used direct light to measure absorbance of red liquid using a green filter. I could not get good results with the filters. Data accuracy was poor, especially at low concentrations. Phone color meter was saturated with light. When using reflected light, there did not seem to be enough light passing through the filter to get an accurate reading.

4.       7/10/17. Method 3: Using White Paper to Reflect Red Light

  • Experiment with using red light on white paper with green liquid to simulate chlorophyll. Here is set up. Also used the spectrophotometer.
  • Method appears to work well. This was the best estimate yet and is very close to what I measured as 333 ppm. This spec measured 327 ppm! This time I took three measurements and averaged them to get my R value and used the average to calculate the absorbance. Huge improvement over the other way with paper, since the paper didn’t really look like red or green. Both store and home specs worked equally well. There is some concern that the error is too low, but nevertheless, for my purposes, I think this is the best method. I was very careful mixing solutions and this time took the average of the R values over three trials using the green solution. I like the method much better of using the red light on white paper. Seems to work very well. Store bought spec got similar results. I took three measurements of absorbance at around wavelenth 500 nm. As usual, I chose this wavelength because there was a peak of absorbance around this value with the green food coloring solutions.


My improved cell phone spectrophotometer design gave good results, and the students can use this app and technique to do other types of experiments. I am very excited to have the students use their cellphones to do science, both in the classroom, and outside of it!

[1] “Use Your Smartphone as an “Absorption Spectrophotometer ….” 30 Mar. 2016, Accessed 25 Jul. 2017.

[2] “Smartphone “Spectrophotometer” – YouTube.” 30 Mar. 2016, Accessed 25 Jul. 2017.

[3] “How to Calculate Absorbance | Sciencing.” 24 Apr. 2017, Accessed 28 Jul. 2017.

pachon-headshotTrudy Pachon teaches AP Biology, AP Environmental Science, Biotechnology, Biology, and Advanced Biology at Mount Everest Academy in SDUSD. She received her B.S. from UCSD in Biology (Evolution, Behavior, and Ecology), a M.S. from UCR in Entomology, and her Master’s in Educational Technology from Boise State University.



A Magical Internship: Feibien Cheah at Disney

While I was biking home from my first final during my Spring 2017 semester, I received a phone call from a number from Anaheim, California. I thought nothing of it as I continued to bike home. After about an hour of the “post-final-I-might-have-to-retake-this-class” episode, I decided to return the missed call. I had applied for an internship position via email and I

Everyone around me was incredibly passionate

didn’t really think of it in great detail as I know that this company is incredibly prominent and would never select an undergraduate to do an internship with them.  Fast forward after the phone call, I was shocked and jittery because I didn’t know what had just happened to me in the past hour. I just got my first internship with none other than Walt Disney Imagineering!

Mind you, I am not a big Disney follower. I did, however; play video games on the classics of my era, as I didn’t really enjoy the movies, such as The Lion King, The Little Mermaid, and Aladdin just to name a few. But that is the full extent of my Disney knowledge. Within Walt Disney Imagineering, I was under the Disney Research group and what we did was more academia focused where we write papers and patents. Essentially, we are pretty far away from the actual implementation in the parks.

At the company, I worked in Glendale, California, a city just behind the famous Hollywood sign. I was hired to do VR, AR, and projection optics. I, however;

One of the most, if not the most, magical experiences in my life

was not strictly confined to the scope of my job. My boss and I were essentially full-time researchers and part time optics consultants.

Day-to-day work life at the company is amazing, to say the least. Everyone around me was incredibly passionate about the things that they are doing and also many of them are leading scientists or professors in their field. As an intern, work life was also incredible. There are many events for interns such as overnight tours at the parks, lunch meet-ups with other interns, lunch meet-ups with an assigned mentor within the company, “take the day off and go to the park while you are getting paid” day, ping pong tournaments, I can go on and on.

Now that my internship has ended, I am officially a fairly big Disney fan. Trust me it is hard to resist the atmosphere of happy ending movies, the song “Let it Go,” crazy state of the art animations while putting a story behind it, and of course the free admission to the parks as an intern. Trust me it was incredible! Please be weary that I am about to use some face palm worthy clichés. All in all, this summer has been a fairy tale to me. A lot of people might not believe it but it was one of the most, if not the most, magical experiences in my life.

Feibien Cheah is an undergraduate at the University of Arizona studying Optical Engineering with a minor in Mechanical Engineering. Previously, Feibien worked with Pierre Blanche under the CIAN fellowship on 3D heads up displays and optical switches. Currently, he is working with Roger Angel at the Steward Observatory Solar Lab doing research on CPV and off axis interferometer systems.

IOU REU: 2017 Program Summary

Every summer, CIAN hosts undergraduate students for the Integrated Optics for Undergraduates (IOU) Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program. This summer CIAN hosted four talented and successful students to participate in innovative research across CIAN campuses nationwide. Following is a summary of these students’ experiences and more information about the program.

Learn more about and apply for the IOU REU program for Summer 2018 here.


Aneek James, an electrical engineering student from the University of Georgia performed research on Construction of a Fiber Array-Centered Silicon Photonic Chip Prober. His Mentor was Dr. Keren Bergman.

Aneek working on his research project.

Project Abstract:

Two-fiber stage probers are limited in stability, cost of required actuators, and inability to run parallel tests on the I/ O ports(e.g. cross talk experiments). In an effort to address these issues, a fiber array-based prober was developed to facilitate efficient testing of silicon photonic chips.


Jazz Pouls, an electrical engineering and computer science major from the University of California Berkeley performed research on Accelerated High Precision 3D Imaging with FMCW Lidar. His mentor was Dr. Ming Wu.


200 x 200 scan of human fingers

Project Abstract:

Frequency Modulated Continuous Wave Lidar (FMCW)

  • Galvo mirrors to scan laser across target
  • Interferometry to determine target’s distance
  • Applications: driverless cars, robotics, manufacturing
    • These applications need high resolution and speed
    • Current resolution is good: <1mm resolution at ~10m distance
    • Our current system is slow: a 100×100 point scan takes ~10 min
    • Goal: Increase speed, ideally to video frame rate (30 fps)


William (Trey) Rauh, an engineering major from the Tidewater Community College completed his project on Optical Triplexer Design. Dr. Demetris Geddis was his mentor.

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Project Abstract:

  • Optical Triplexers are utilized in the creation of optical networks. These devices are used to send and recieve multiple wavelengths of light in the same fiber optic cable.
  • Incoming optical pulses are converted to electric signals via photodetectors.
  • Outgoing electrical transmissions are emitted by VCSEL (Vertical Cavity Surface Emitting Laser).
  • Ultimately, the triplexer serves as a device for converting optical pulses to electrical signals, and vice versa.


Jeffrey Smith, an engineering student from Thomas Nelson Community College performed research on Design and Simulation of Reciever and Transmitter Circuits for Optical Triplexers. Dr. Demetris Geddis also mentored him.

Project Abstract:

The goal was to design and simulate receiver and transmitter circuits for optical triplexer. Fiber networks are so cost effective that this new triplexer build might be a more cost efficient way to open a catalyst of data centers.

I’m personally motivated by the children whom live in poverty stricken communities or those secluded rural areas where fiber coverage isn’t offered. Providers only render these resources to the more prominent economies. The motivation for this research for me is giving people the tools they need but were never offered, so that they may transform their minds.


IOU-NA Research Experience for Native American Undergraduates 2017 Program

The fourth year of the Integrated Optics for Undergraduate Native Americans (IOU-NA) Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program has come to a close at the University of Arizona, College of Optical Sciences. The IOU-NA program is designed for Native American students to participate in hands-on research opportunities at the University of Arizona in optics and photonics, as well as in hydrology, astronomy, soil sciences, atmospheric sciences, environmental sciences, and more. IOU-NA students participate in Native American focused workshops facilitated by the Center for Integrated Access Networks (CIAN) staff. This summer twelve students from across the country came together,

The IOU-NA program is designed for Native American students to participate in hands-on research opportunities at the University of Arizona in optics and photonics, as well as in hydrology, astronomy, soil sciences, atmospheric sciences, environmental sciences, and more. IOU-NA students participate in Native American focused workshops facilitated by the Center for Integrated Access Networks (CIAN) staff.

This summer twelve students from across the country came together, performed, and presented unique and innovative research projects. Over the last four years, the IOU-NA program has hosted 35 NA students from 12 different tribes, 17 different universities, and many were freshmen and sophomores. Thirteen students have since graduated and eleven students have gone on to pursue higher degrees of education including degrees from the University of Arizona, MIT, University of Virginia, and more.

Since the program has begun CIAN’s IOU-NA REU program will continue for two more years based on National Science Foundation Funding. This year’s students are listed below along with their project titles and mentors.

If you would like to learn more or apply for the program visit our website here.

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Israel Aragon

Fort Lewis College
Optical Diffraction Switching
Pierre-Alexandre Blanche, Colton Bigler


Leo Bia

University of Arizona
The effects of increasing temperatures on photochemical smog in the Phoenix Metropolitan area during 1984 to 2016
Chris Castro

Refreeno Harvey

Fort Lewis College
Research in Hydrology for Streamflow Infiltration at Walnut Gulch Experimental Watershed
Pieter Hazenberg

Antonia Jim

Fort Lewis College
Testing the Ability of Landscape Evolution Observatory Soil To Support Plant Growth
Aditi Sengupta

Jasmine Lopez

Tohono O’odham Community College
Water Quality in The Southern United States & Navajo Nation
Paloma Beamer, Nathan Lothrop, Yoshi Ornelas

Madison McMillen

University of Arkansas
Navajo Gold King Mine Spill (GKMS) Exposure Project: Dietary Patterns Pre- and Post- the GKMS
Paloma Beamer, Nathan Lothrop, Yoshi Ornelas

Natasha Manygoats

 University of Arizona
Effects of centrifuging brine prior to membrane distillation has on the performance and fouling of the membrane
Vicky Karanikola, Bob Arnold, Chris Yazzie

Micah Mann

University of Arizona
Fluorescent Anisotropy Measurements
Leilei Peng, Dustin Tran, Dongli Xu


Harrisetta Sandoval

Fort Lewis College
Assembling and Operating a Direct Write Photolithography System
Sasaan Showghi

Jesse Toledo

 University of California, Los Angeles
Walnut Gulch Experimental Watershed Raindrop Size and Distribution
Pieter Hazenberg

Leon Toledo

Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute
Adaptations of Plants against Damage by Insects and Pathogens
Betsy Arnold

Craig Draper

University of Arizona
An Optical Ising Machine Based on Multi-core Fiber Lasers
Pierre-Alexandre Blanche, Lichuan Liu

CIAN Lecture Series Webinar – Gilles Lamant

Integrated Photonics IC

Date:  Friday, April 28, 2017
Time:  2pm PST, 2pm AZT, 5pm EST

Please register by clicking on the link: Webinar   or copy and pasting to your browser:


Gilles Lamant

Gilles graduated from ESIEE (Ecole Supérieure D’Ingénieurs en Electronique et Electrotechnique), Paris, France in 1991.

He joined Cadence during his last year of study to work on his thesis (1989). He holds an Engineering Degree with a double major (Signal processing and component modeling).

After working in the field (including 8+ years in Japan and 2+ years in Russia), with customers in the areas of analog, Mixed-signal designs and custom layout, he joined the R&D team in San Jose. He lead the migration of the Virtuoso platform to the industry standard database (OpenAccess). He was instrumental in enabling the FinFet flow in the Virtuoso advanced node platform. About 4 years ago, he engaged into following the photonics industry, and in the last 2 years, lead the Virtuoso development and integration with Virtuoso two main partners, Lumerical and PhoeniX.

Looking forward at the next disturbance in the force is his job. He is currently learning about spin-tropics, spin-wave devices.

Gilles has about 20 patents, several as a single author.

Gilles hobbies include Lego, Pottery and doing things with my 2 twin boys (~6 yo).


The close integration of photonics ICs with their electrical counterpart has highlighted for many large companies the big gap in design methodology/productivity/predictability between the two. This has triggered an attempt to leverage the EDA investment (technical and methodology) to ramp up photonics IC design. This is very similar to what has happen on the manufacturing side, with Silicon Photonics taking advantages of all the advances made in CMOS manufacturing.

We will review several key examples of EDA methodologies (such as schematic driven layout) that can be used and leverage to increase photonics design productivity. At the same time, we will highlight some differences between the two domains, and how these are dealt with in a production environment such as Virtuoso.

Finally we will present some highlights of what can further be done to leverage the 3D, 2.5D IC methodology, signal integrity capabilities and packaging features of the electronics tools as the EPDA solution matures.

OIDA 2017 Conference & Poster Competition

The recent OIDA/CIAN Workshop sponsored by IPIC and Go!Foton on March 19th, in Los Angeles, CA was a success!

The workshop was targeted at companies and innovators considering or already investing in integrated photonics to meet their future product requirements, and who need to understand key manufacturing challenges and how they can be addressed. Read more about the conference.
Key questions addressed included:

  • What supply chain, manufacturing, and packaging challenges are common across applications?
  • What common or standardized elements exist across applications?
  • What resources are available and how can gaps be filled?

Also during the conference a poster judging competition took place. Three top posters were selected as winners.

1st Place Winner

Jordan Davis
University of California, San Diego

Project Abstract

Silicon photonic waveguides are typically designed to operate with the fundamental mode due to low cross talk with higher order modes and low propagation loss. However, currently, silicon photonics is being exploited for operation with higher order modes propagation for mode-division multiplexing (MDM).  This approach utilizes the orthogonal modes of a waveguide by encoding information both in space and wavelength to augment bandwidth limited wavelength-division multiplexing (WDM) systems. Conventionally, ring resonators and grating structures are applied to achieve spatial modes conversion. In this paper, we explore an alternative approach to mode conversion using counter-directional resonators. We introduce a cavity into grating-assisted directional couplers, offering both flexibility in design and wavelength selectivity provided by resonant structures. Our compact (54.5 μm2) device is demonstrated experimentally to operate with resonant 1st and 2nd order guided TE-modes.

From the Winner

OIDA was a chance for me to visualize the hurdles that photonic startups are meeting. I learned about the opportunities that exist to bring a product to market and the prices associated with these products.

2nd Place Winner

Peter Weigel
University of California, San Diego

Project Abstract

This research focuses on bringing lithium niobate films-on-insulator (LNOI) to the foundry-fabricated silicon-on-insulator (SOI) platform. This is done by fabricating bonded SOI-LNOI integrated devices, mitigating thermal stresses in the bonded stack to allow for standard fabrication procedures, and creating a fully functioning PDK of hybrid Si-LN optical device components for third party users. This technology enables compact devices in LN and highly efficient nonlinear optical devices based in Si, both of which are unattainable with each standalone bulk material platform.

From the Winner

The OIDA workshop at OFC 2017 was an exceptional opportunity to hear of the different routes researchers in academia and industry are currently taking to grow integrated photonics from a low-production, manually-intensive industry into something akin to the booming industry that integrated electronics has been for the last five decades. I left the workshop with a feeling of profound fortune to have the chance to work in a field with such impressive men and women.

3rd Place Winner

Alexander Gazman
Columbia University

Project Abstract

This research is focused on developing silicon photonic subsystems for high-performance computers and data-center applications. To be able to integrate the silicon photonic technology and utilize its functionality, software-defined control planes ought to reconfigure their operation based on the network needs. Previously we developed a subsystem consisting of a fast tunable laser and a silicon photonic chip operating as a demultiplexer. The demonstrated FPGA-based controlled plane allowed the user to choose a desired wavelength of operation and spatial switching: unicast, multicast or broadcast. In the presented work at the OIDA we added another layer of a feedback control ensure thermal stability of our subsystem.

From the Winner

The industry speakers broaden my view on their take on the silicon photonic technology. Additional applications were presented along with commercialization challenges.


This poster session was made possible by a grant from the National Science Foundation.