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MERCED, CA — The future of broadband technology - high-speed Internet access, cable TV, and telephone service - could be vastly improved by the research conducted by chemist Anne Myers Kelley, who was recently named Professor in the Division of Natural Sciences at UC Merced - the newest campus of the UC system and the first major research university to be built in the 21st century.
With the help of lasers and sensitive light detectors, Kelley conducts research on how light scatters as it interacts with the molecular components of electro-optic materials.
“High-speed communications would benefit greatly from the development of better electro-optic materials,” says Kelley. “The materials we are studying are easier to fabricate and can convert electrical signals into optical signals more rapidly than the materials currently in use, ultimately increasing fiber optic speed and reducing the cost of the technology.”
As a distinguished chemist and a leading researcher in resonance Raman spectroscopy, Kelley comes to UC Merced from Kansas State University, where she taught and conducted research for the past four years in the Department of Chemistry. She obtained a doctorate in chemistry at UC Berkeley in 1984 and a bachelor's of science degree in chemistry at UC Riverside.
“Dr. Kelley's research program is internationally recognized, and she will be instrumental in building the chemistry programs at UC Merced,” said Dean of Natural Sciences Maria Pallavicini. “Together with other faculty, she will develop innovative chemistry programs for undergraduate and graduate students.”
Raman spectroscopy research is conducted in completely darkened rooms. As a weak laser beam enters a sample - be it gas, liquid or solid - some light passes through the sample, while some is absorbed and a small portion is scattered in different wavelengths or colors.
The scattered light is then gathered and sent through a spectrograph, which separates the light into its different colors much like a prism to be measured by a very sensitive light detector. The scattered light has peaks at certain wavelengths determined by the vibrational frequencies of the molecules in the sample. From the intensities of the various peaks, it is possible to deduce the structures of the molecules and how they change as they interact with light.
Other chemists have already synthesized many different molecular structures that have good electro-optic properties when studied in isolation. However, to make useful materials, the molecules must be dissolved in a plastic at high concentrations. The interactions between molecules in these environments change their optical properties, often for the worse. Raman spectroscopy can be performed in a wide range of chemical environments, allowing these interactions to be thoroughly characterized. Once these intermolecular effects are understood it should be possible to design the electro-optic molecules and/or the plastics in which they are dispersed so as to optimize the performance of the material.
Raman spectroscopy is a standard technique in analytical chemistry, but specialized equipment and methods of data analysis are needed to obtain information about light-induced changes in molecular structure from Raman spectra. Kelley is an internationally recognized expert in Raman intensity analysis and its application to problems of this type.
“Dr. Kelley has developed improved experimental and theoretical approaches for the analysis of Raman data in terms of excited state nuclear dynamics,” says Richard A. Mathies, UC Berkeley professor of biophysical and bioanalytical chemistry and graduate advisor to Kelley. “She has then applied these techniques to a variety of fundamental problems including light-induced electron transfer, intramolecular charge transfer reactions and beautiful studies of solvent-induced symmetry breaking.”
Kelley's other research interests include: resonance Raman and time-resolved spectroscopic studies of fast photochemical reactions; relationships between linear and nonlinear optical properties in organic chromophores; and genetic algorithms and neural networks for modeling spectroscopic data.
UC Merced will welcome its first 1,000 students in fall of 2004, with an eventual student capacity of 25,000. Initial undergraduate degree programs will include computer science and engineering, environmental engineering, biological sciences, earth systems sciences, world cultures and history, and social and behavioral sciences. Masters and doctoral degrees will be offered in computer and information systems, environmental systems, systems biology, world cultures, and social and behavioral sciences.
UC Merced, the 10th campus of the University of California system, is the first major research university to be built in the United States in the 21st century. UC Merced will serve students in three ways that complement the changing needs of today's society: 1) a residential campus serving 25,000 students when complete; 2) educational centers throughout the San Joaquin Valley; and 3) cooperative agreements with the California Community College system.