If the 20th century was the century of the electron (think electronics, computers and the World Wide Web), then the 21st century is the century of light. We’re talking about lasers and light on the nano-scale. The concept of “the century of light” has been expressed by scientists all over the world and was underscored when the United Nations General Assembly declared that 2015 was the International Year of Light and light-based technologies because of their importance to humanity.
Dr. Haim Suchowski, USD’s visiting professor from Tel Aviv University, has built his academic research career around the study of photonics, the physical science of light waves. Research to better understand the science of photonics is the basis for advances in areas such as non-invasive medical diagnoses and treatments, maximizing the output of solar energy, and self-driving cars, to name just a few.
What drives Dr. Suchowski’s fascination with photonics? To put it simply, the ability of humans to glean information using only their biological senses, is limited. There is a lot going on that we cannot see with our own eyes. Without the technology to see beyond the abilities of our eyes, we are only understanding a small part of the whole picture. In the past 30 years, the field of optics has enabled us to watch videos on our cell phones, enabled a surgeon to repair a detached retina, and enables us to probe the composition of distant stars. In addition, the ability to see on the nano level enables big things.
Dr. Suchowski is currently co-teaching a mechanical engineering course with Dr. Frank Jacobitz (chair of Mechanical Engineering), called “Engineering Innovations: Bridging California and Israel” which focuses on engineering innovations, including new space and remote-sensing technologies, with case studies from California and Israel.
This is the second time Dr. Suchowski and Dr. Jacobitz have co-taught this course, although this is the first time it has been held in-person. The first time they taught this class was in Spring 2021, when all USD classes were virtual, due to the pandemic. That was a virtual class that included students from both USD and Tel Aviv University, which made for very interesting discussions amongst students from both universities.
Teaching on the USD campus, in-person, is a very different experience from teaching at Tel Aviv University. For starters, USD students tend to be younger, since all Israeli students have spent several years in military service before beginning their college journeys. Additionally, Suchowski relayed his impression that Israeli students tend to ask more questions than the students at USD. He also noticed how many international experiences are available to USD students. Tel Aviv University has fewer such opportunities for their students, although they are trying to grow their international programming.
Suchowski’s ability to teach at USD is made possible by the Murray Galinson San Diego Initiative, which supports faculty and student exchanges between San Diego and Israel. He will be giving a presentation on his research on September 20th, 12:30-1:30 in the Belanich Engineering Center, room 318. All are welcome.
— Elisa Lurkis, USD’s Shiley-Marcos School of Engineering