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Virginia Tech researchers among recipients of Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative program award | Virginia Tech News

A Virginia Tech researcher is leveraging 30 years of contacts to solve historic problems in applied physics using cutting-edge methods.

In March United States Department of Defense announced $221 million in awards for defense-related research projects as part of the Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative (MURI) programme. With an average award amount of $7.5 million over five years, the grants will support 30 teams at 73 US academic institutions.

Vassilios Kovanis, professor of quantum systems research in Virginia Tech National Security Institute, is in one of the multi-university teams assigned. The project comes after the institute recently made investments in quantum research as part of Virginia Tech’s initiative to advance the quantum frontier.

The project, AI-Guided Self-Organization: Tailoring Disorder to Shape Complex Nonlinear Dynamics, aims to use emerging artificial intelligence (AI) to tackle the age-old problem of making trained quantum photonic sensors work in sync to generate greater force, superradiation and coherent signals.

“We were underdogs in that way because people are not sure if artificial intelligence can be used successfully for our purposes,” said Kovanis, associate professor of Bradley Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. “We are willing to try new techniques. But it is the responsibility of the MURI awards to push forward basic research even if it fails because we will still learn new things.”

Kovani’s team consists of researchers from other universities, many of whom he has built working relationships with over the past three decades. It is led by Hui Cao and Logan G. Wright of Yale University and includes Herbert Winful of the University of Michigan, Steven Anlage of the University of Maryland at College Park, Ying-Cheng Lai of Arizona State University, and Tsampikos Kottos of Wesleyan University.

“The MURI award is based on the idea of ​​encouraging collaboration between peer institutions,” Kovanis said. “There is so much more we can learn when we can work together with our peers at different universities who may have different resources than us, but also different perspectives.”

The award will also enable all universities involved to develop the next generation of researchers in applied physics. As part of the project, the university team will organize annual summer and winter conferences where they will share the results with the Naval Research Laboratory, peer universities and student researchers

“It’s important in a field like applied physics to have new people and new ideas coming in,” Kovanis said. “We have to bring them in and teach them some of our tricks and maybe they will be able to solve old problems with their new perspectives.”

The focus of this five-year project supported by the Office of Naval Research will be on basic research, discovering new physical concepts and AI technologies capable of universally controlling and regulating self-organization. The team will pay particular attention to training the next generation of defense scientists and engineers and realizing reconfigurable phase locking in large arrays of two-dimensional semiconductor laser arrays, power-scalable mode locking in fiber lasers, and shaping the emission of arrays of Josephson junctions, a special set of quantum oscillators.

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