Sarah Grefe is investigating optical properties of very small particles called nanoparticles, which are about 10,000 times smaller than the width of a human hair.
Shortly after starting the graduate program in Physics at CSULB, Grefe discovered the work Dr. Yohannes Abate was doing in the field of nano-optics, the study of the interaction of light with nanostructured materials, and contacted him about joining his lab.
At the nanoscale, electrons on the surface of a metal demonstrate a phenomenon called plasmons. There is a great deal of interest in plasmons for communications technology investigators, chemists, and electrical engineers, but the basic physics of plasmons is not well understood, particularly in low dimensional correlated materials. Working with Dr. Abate has given Grefe the opportunity to work in a highly advanced near-field optics laboratory based on a high spatial resolution near-field microscope that can investigate surface states. As a result, she and Dr. Abate are working to gain a better understanding of the basic physics of low-dimensional systems.
Since she began working with Dr. Abate in January 2013, Grefe has co-authored two articles with Dr. Abate and other students, and are preparing to submit another publication soon. In April 2013, she was awarded a CSULB Graduate Research Fellowship based on a research proposal to study the optical properties of quantum dots. In February she won second place in the CSULB Student Research Competition for her research, "Near-field Plasmonic Coupling of Infrared Nanoantennaes: Experiment and Simulation." Recently, she contributed a talk at the Materials Research Society Spring 2013 Symposium on a nanoscale investigation of a novel class of materials called topological insulators, with the help of a Student Travel Fund awarded by ASI. She will go on to present her work at the CSU Systemwide Student Research Competition in May at Cal Poly Pomona.
Grefe earned her bachelor's degree in applied mathematics with a minor in physics at CSULB. After she completes her master's degree this summer, Grefe is accepted for the Ph.D. program in physics at Rice University in Houston, Texas with Professor Qimiao Si, who is a leader in the field of strongly correlated electron systems. She hopes to further pursue work in condensed matter theory and ultimately become a professor.